In the end, of course Pharoah is just another horse
American Pharoah currently rules the sports world.
The 3-year-old American thoroughbred just completed an amazing feat, winning horse racing’s Triple Crown.
He won the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, the 140th Preakness Stakes on May 16 and the 147th Belmont Stakes on Saturday. He’s just the 12th Triple Crown winner in horse racing history, and the first since Affirmed since 1978.
The first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. How exciting, right?
Frankly, my dear readers, I don’t give a damn.
Congrats to owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza. They managed to get the colt through a grueling stretch of races. Perhaps too many in a short period of time.
He’s run in and won five Grade 1 races in nearly 21?2 months. Yes, 21?2 months – a compressed schedule in a so-called sport that sees the majority of its participants wait 30 days between starts.
However that’s tough to do when the owner himself admits the bottom line is money. It’s what fuels this sport, which is more about the gamblers than the animal.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the moral police when it comes to gambling. My concern is with the animals, who have no free will and are treated as assets rather than respected properly.
It’s nothing new, I lump horses and dogs bred for the track in there with any other animal used and abused for sport. Hunting or fishing for food aside, there’s no real need for mistreatment or murder of animals brought on by the selfish behavior.
Braggadocio at its best certainly brings out the worst in people.
As one sits on the edge of their seat cheering on their favorite filly or colt, they don’t realize that the game isn’t as beautiful as the final stretch run makes it appear.
American Pharoah is one of the lucky ones. No, not for winning these three major races. He’s lucky that he hasn’t been run into the ground, or, as the saying goes in horse racing, the glue factory.
According to a report in the Indianapolis Star, 43 horses have died in racing or training incidents in New York since January. That’s 43 in just one state.
As the Star points out, we are referring to a “1,000-pound creature bred to run 30 mph, on a frame that maximizes its muscular carriage and minimizes its ankles … Breeders want more power, more speed and less weight. The skinnier the legs, the lighter the horse.”
And so the celebration began, as American Pharoah crossed the finish line. All the glitz and glamour. All the greedy humans cashing in.
Just three hours earlier, another colt, Helwan, was euthanized after breaking its left front ankle bone while holding third place down the backstretch in the fourth race at Belmont Park.
Only 4 years old. It’s a shame this beautiful creature won’t get to retire to a stud farm.
Then again, American Pharoah may not get there either.
Zayat is pledging to keep his horse in training through the end of the year. Why?
“They have zero say until he retires,” Zayat said about Coolmore Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., which owns American Pharoah’s breeding rights. “We owe it to the sport to do the right thing. Money plays an important factor in this game. I’ve already sold the breeding rights, but it is my genuine desire, as a fan, as someone who loves horses, to race him as long as I possibly can.”
Or until he faces the same fate as Helwan and so many others before him.
Of course they shouldn’t let that real possibility get in the way of him running at the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.
Sure, these horses aren’t treated as harshly as circus animals, but they’re certainly being forced into an industry that’s run like a circus.
That is something I do give a damn about.
George Scione can be reached at 594-6520, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_BigG.