Sunday, June 10, 2012

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Mood Swings and Finger-Pointing That Accompany Horse Racing

PETA, if you don't like my post, then go back into your cubicles and make more inappropriate advertisements and PETA porn, mmkay? Now that I got that out of the way...


No, really, horses are cool. So cool that they can run great distances in a certain length of time. Seeing them race each other is pretty darned exciting at times. What's even better is seeing people lose hundreds of dollars betting on these beauties.

But anyway, it's interesting to see so many people invested in one athletic colt.

For the record, this is considered a colt since he is under the age of four. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
Ladies and gentlemen, it was announced on Friday that the colt above, named I'll Have Another, had been scratched from the big race at Belmont. After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, this dandy of a horse was a favorite to win the Belmont, ultimately becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown since the horse named Affirmed in 1978. After a little run around the stable the other day, I'll Have Another (which will be shortened to IHA during the rest of this post for my own sake) was feeling tension in his leg. After medical attention, it was noted that there was a swollen tendon, leaving the owners no choice but to scratch IHA from the race on Saturday.

He will be retired.
Most of America cries at this announcement.
I know I did.

The thing that fascinates me is how many people get invested in the Triple Crown races just because one horse defies the odds and wins the first two races. Sure, the races are incredibly grueling; the Belmont race is the longest of the three--a mile and a half, actually--and it can really wear out horses. There are other people that probably didn't bother watching the Belmont Stakes because IHA wasn't be in contention. I remember back in 2004 when Smarty Jones was in the running to win the Triple Crown and all of Philadelphia was rooting him on.
(Aside: 2004 was a really awkward year in Philadelphia sports, I'll tell you that right now. The Eagles were in the Super Bowl in the 04-05 season, for cripes' sake.)
The whole area was rooting for this little guy, and about 98% of the people in Philly never knew about this colt until the Kentucky Derby. It was pandemonium, and that was only in the city. I could only imagine what went on nationwide.

There are mood swings that often accompany horse races. When you turn on the television, you'll probably say: "Wow, those are some well-groomed horses," or if you're a female: "Awwwww, they're so cute! I want one!" Then when the guy on TV says "...and they're off," you turn into a hardcore football fan waiting for the fourth down play. It's like, "C'MON [insert long horse name here]!! HANG BACK! PACE YOURSELF!" Then during the final stretch, there could be one of a few things: jumping up and down, garbled yells, the soul-burning stare, or the mid-chew pause, among other things.

Does the media make the horse? In some ways they do, but in cases such as IHA, all you had to do was watch to see the horse come from behind in the Kentucky Derby and see the considerably smaller horse make quick work of the other big guys. When it comes to animals, I think a lot of people have that soft side to root for the horse that just races and runs around for a living.
There are others that think it's animal cruelty and should be stopped. Are there reasons behind that? Sure. The horses are being trained to do it, and to make them go faster, there are times when they're whipped in the behinds. The aspect of gambling on horses can be mentioned too, although that usually isn't the reason brought to the forefront. Don't mention the words "glue factory" either; I think that would make any person cry to hear that be the outcome of any horse.

Horses--and even animals in general--don't really have to do much but act in their own natural ways to win crowds over. Think Shark Week; those things could kill you, but when you see what they do on TV, it's pretty awesome and you just think sharks are the coolest thing ever. Horses run around and eat lots of oats and draw carriages, but watching them race is rather hypnotizing. Is it cruel? I don't think so. They're doing something that's absolutely natural to them, so there's no reason to be upset that they're competing in the human world. If you asked them to swim an Olympic-sized pool, on the other hand, I'd consider that to be cruel since that's not a natural thing for them. I invest a lot of emotions in these guys, and frankly, I don't really mind it.