June 8, 2008, 5:10 pm
Horse Racing Prevails
By SID GUSTAFSON
Big Brown burst from the gate fresh and fast. He immediately veered out, causing some concern that he was getting off the left front hoof (or was he just shying a bit from the starter in light of his freshness?). Despite his best efforts, Kent couldn’t contain his horse’s energy and settle him in. Checking can take the timing, balance, and rhythm out of a horse, disordering their physiology, expending their energy.
The heat, Brown’s rankness, the rough-going in tight company early, the necessity of having to rein heavily, the lost conditioning due to the quarter crack, the quarter crack itself, three races in five weeks, one mile and a half in the heat; all adequate reasons for the altered performance from the veterinary view. No surprises in the realm of equine medicine, at least.
The day was very hot; Brown was washing and foaming between the thighs. All the trouble the horse had to contend with early in the race expended needed energy not later available at the top of the homestretch. Down the backstretch Brown’s head was bobbing significantly more than the other racing horses, suggesting the onset of exhaustion.
Medically, the media and veterinary consensus thus far is that Big Brown is fine. Kent Desormeaux’s decision to pull the horse was commendable in light of the knowledge that a medical problem existed in his foot. No one wanted to risk the horse injury, especially his rider. The pressure was on to bring the horse home sound, and Kent did that. Big Brown expressed his displeasure at being held back, fighting with Kent, unfamiliar with having a herd of horses leave ahead of him, wanting to go on as Kent was bringing him to a stop in front of the grandstand. It appears our fallen hero was more likely exhausted than injured, for which we are all grateful.
Big Brown had a bad day, but things have could have turned out worse, as we all know. Horses humble men on a regular basis. Here is to the smooth and steady Da’ Tara, the sweet-riding Alan Garcia, and a superb conditioning job by Nick Zito.
The beauty of horse racing is overcoming great odds to win, rising out of the dust to prevail in the big race. The Da’ Tara team did just that, especially impressive in Saturday’s hot weather.
Sid Gustafson is a novelist, social commentator, and former thoroughbred attending and examining veterinarian licensed in New York, Washington, and Montana, where he has had significant experience in the regulation of racehorses, especially as it pertains to soundness and breakdowns.