I suppose there is some perverse irony in the death of the four year old filly, Pramedya, after breaking her left front cannon bone racing on the turf course at Pimlico on Saturday. Her owners, Gretchen and Roy Jackson also bred the talented Barbaro. Barbaro broke down during the 2006 Preakness and was euthanized some ten months later in January 2007. The only picture of Pramedya that I could find was of her in the final minutes of her tragic life, her front legs folded beneath her as she tried to remain standing. Soon she would be dead. I would not and could not include that photo. Her jockey, Daniel Centeno, broke his collarbone in the fall, but he will live to race again.
In the first race on Saturday's card, nine year old gelding Homeboykris (in his sixty-fourth start) won, reaching, straining and racing to the end. A digital photo was snapped in the winner's circle, there were smiles all around, and during the walk to his stall, Homeboykris collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack. Stretching irony still further, Honeboykris' body was sent for a necropsy to be performed at the same hospital that treated Barbaro. Homeboykris was a graded stakes winner, winning the 2009 Champagne Stakes Gr.1, and he finished tenth in the 2010 Kentucky Derby. In sixty-four starts he won more than $500,000. His record: 14 wins, 10 seconds and 5 third place finishes. His grandsire was Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. His blood was a champion's.
In a recent report The Jockey Club showed that fatal injuries dropped to 1.62 per 1000 starts in 2015 from 1.89 per 1000 starts in 2014. Horse racing is that rare sport in which the principal participants regularly suffer catastrophic injuries resulting in their death. Nonetheless we cannot look away. Racing's efforts to police itself and to burnish its image can never completely erase the revulsion that follows calamitous injury to or tragic death of a horse. I can only think of automobile racing as the sport which most closely parallels horse racing. We will watch a spectacular, firey crash replayed countless time and remain more or less unmoved, yet the thought of a suffering animal shreds our emotions. Only the most callous among us remains unmoved.
If you don't believe me, just look at the headline of The Cincinnati Enquirer for Monday. May 30, 2016: Community saddened by killing of gorilla at Zoo. A four year old boy somehow managed to elude his parents and all of the safeguards surrounding the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. He fell into a moat and was rescued by a 17 year old western lowland gorilla named Harambe. The zoo's emergency response team, in order to save the child from a life-threatening situation, was forced to kill Harambe. The story was reported worldwide. resulting in intense responses that included charging the parents with neglect to a petition to make an incident that results in the death of an endangered species a crime with which the parent might be charged. A vigil for Harambe was held at the zoo's main entrance on the afternoon of May 30.
Although a pall had been cast over the day, all was not doom and gloom, because there was still the annual infield bikini contest. I've seen the photos, they stand in line for this. And the girls do too.