Monday, May 11, 2009

Big Girl

The Preakness will have a filly in the field this Saturday. Rachel Alexandra, winner of the Kentucky Oaks by 20 1/4 lengths, will race against the big boys and I can't wait! A filly in the field always makes a race just that much more thrilling, especially if she wins. When Rags to Riches took the Belmont Stakes two years ago I literally was so excited that I ran circles around the diningroom table trying to calm myself down.
Still, despite the promise of glory, I can't help but think of Eight Bells, the filly that broke down at the end of the Kentucky Derby last year and was euthanized right on the track. An unfortunate flashback to the fate of Ruffian in 1975. There's long been the argument that fillies can't run with the colts, but statistically more colts have to be destroyed than fillies (Barbaro, anyone?), so it's not a question of sex but the issue of training methods and the physicality of the thoroughbred horse. The stress placed on their matchstick thin metacarpus is literally crushing, often shattering their cannon bone and/or fetlock. These injuries pay no heed to whether or not the horse is male or female, there is no dimorphic anatomical weakness inherent to a female horse. That argument is nothing more than anthropomorphic sexism.


lynt said...

I'm happy she won. But happier still that she's a big, seemingly strong girl. I'm sexist, yeah -- Ruffian still makes me cry. And the Eight Belles tragedy led me to boycott the derby this year. These are babies, boy or girl. Gotta wonder why waiting another year or so would be so bad...

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

Jess Jackson, current owner of Rachel A and Curlin, has this belief that the sport needs to breed a stronger horse structurally. Speed comes into play, of course, but that structural soundness shouldn't be sacrificed for it.
I just hope they run Rachel A in the Belmont. Can't say that I'll care much about the race if they don't. Yeah, it's a mile and half, but if the track isn't a litter box, she's good to go.