Despite the fact I object to much of what is done in the world of horse racing, I’ll be watching the Belmont Stakes horse race on June 9, no doubt wincing while I do so.
Before you fire off an email calling me a hypocrite, please know I will only be tuning into the Belmont for the same reason I watched this year’s Kentucky Derby: Because Sue Baby wants me to watch it with her, and at her age, Sue Baby gets what she wants.
Sue Baby is my mother, and if you guessed by the nickname (no, it’s not her legal name) that she’s Southern, you are correct. Born and raised in Kentucky, Sue Baby grew up in an era of white gloves and lacy Sunday hats and mint juleps. And horses. Of her four children, apparently I was the only one who inherited that gene, just as I also got her dark eyes and longish French nose.
My dad used to watch horse races with her, but since he died that role has fallen to me. So I will be turning on the Belmont, crossing my fingers that nothing more tragic happens on that track than some fans losing money by betting on the wrong horse.
Because the facts don’t support pushing young horses.
In his ground-breaking new DVD, “Lameness: Its Causes & Prevention,” renown veterinarian Dr. Robert Miller explains that he believes there are 11 major causes of lameness: age, defective conformation, nutrition, lack of exercise, injury from an unsafe environment, inappropriate ground surfaces, improper foot care, laminitis, infection, genetics and too much work at too young an age.
Thoroughbreds are not immune to that.
To top it off, Doug O’Neill, the trainer of Triple Crown contender I’ll Have Another, has gotten than a dozen violations for doping horses. And according to The New York Times, “the horses he trains break down or show signs of injury at more than twice the rate of the national average.”
I swore off watching horse races after what happened to Barbaro, and that was reinforced by the death of Eight Belles. But when your elderly mother wants company for her tradition, what do you do?
So I picked her up from the assisted living facility where she lives and brought her to my house for the Kentucky Derby. She wore a pale blue suit, hose, sensible heels and a floppy-brimmed, gauzy white hat. We ate appetizers and chatted and while she didn’t have a mint julep, she did have a “co-cola.”
We won’t be in my living room on June 9–my mother had a small stroke over Memorial Day weekend and is now in a rehabilitation hospital, learning how to walk and dress herself and talk clearly once again–so I will pack up some festive food and bring it to her room where we will watch the Belmont Stakes.
And even though it’s the wrong horse race, maybe I’ll even sneak in some mint juleps.