Eight Belles, the only filly (female) competitor in the Kentucky Derby this afternoon, slipped off to that great paddock in the sky shortly after finishing 2nd in the greatest sporting event that happens each year. Finishing 5 lengths behind the leader, she had almost that same distance between her and the 3rd place finisher, who was regarded more highly.
From a bloodline that included Unbridled and Unbridled’s Song, the 17 hand filly (really big), had run 10 races, finishing in the top 3 in all but one race. Discounted by some because of her filly status, her owners scratched her out of the Kentucky Oaks (like the Derby but for female horses) and tried her against the boys. Did she win? No. Did she do very well in a tough field of 20 horses in what’s considered the most grueling horse race every year? Yes. Did she beat 2 of the horses that had a whole lot of hype? You bet she did.
After crossing the finish line, she broke both front ankles and had to be euthanized on the track. I’ve seen it before, I’m afraid to say I’ll see it again. Horse racing is a beautiful sport with speed, grace, and delicate, yet powerful animals to whom one injury means life or death, and in this case, death. Horses simply don’t recover from broken legs. The fact that she broke both in one fell swoop was a tragedy.
I love Derby day, I love to see the colors flying and the horses move so gracefully and artfully down the dirt track. I hate to know that a beautiful animal is in pain. Now her work is done, now her time is to play in the pastures of the hereafter, joining others who went before, steam coming from her nostrils in the early morning light, sides moving in and out as she runs along a creekbed, hearing the call to the post as if in a dream, tossing her head and snorting as if to say, I’m in greener pastures now.