Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Giddy Up

For a few reasons, I have never quite understood people who love horse racing. Maybe my confusion comes from the fact that I don't particularly consider it an actual sport, but rather a stock exchange with horses. It's a given fact that horse racing would not exist if it weren't for gambling. Granted, gambling is involved in every sport, but it's inherent to the mere existence of horse racing. To consider something an actual sport, the competition itself should be able to go off without needing a betting window present. Not only that, I also don't trust any sport where the subject of the race/game/contest has no idea whether they have won or lost. Maybe this is also why I don't like Bode Miller.

Nevertheless, what troubles me the most are people who consider horses to be "athletes." I remember watching Smarty Jones make a run at the Triple Crown a few years and seeing throngs of people in Philadelphia taking pride that Smarty Jones was from Philly. Seriously, people were going nuts because a hometown horse was winning races! They even had THREE separate Smarty Jones days within a 5-week span in Philadelphia. I understand the desperate need to cling to any winner from the city, and Smarty Jones was a better shot at bringing glory before Donovan McNabb or Ryan Howard will probably ever be, but it's a horse! A horse, by the way, that has no idea where its hometown is. Still, the fans of Philly are nothing compared to the thousands upon thousands of people who sent Get Well cards (!) to a horse months ago. It's all pretty mind boggling when you think about it.

And yet, when the Breeder's Cup Juvenile race goes off a week from Saturday, I will find myself rooting for a horse. Not just any horse, but one with my all-time favorite name: UD Ghetto. He dominated the Kentucky Cup at a 17-1 underdog, and it's obvious from his trainer that the horse lives up to the spirit of his name.

"He's got a lot of talent (but is) a handful all the time," Reinstedler said. "You never know what he's going to do."

That statement can be copied verbatim to apply to any participant in a Ghetto 9-hole or Hairy Buff party.

So on November 4th, I will be rooting UD Ghetto, possibly with a Beast in hand just for old time's sake. I will be cheering with personal interest for a horse that couldn't care less about winning, and has no idea of the rich heritage that inspired his name. And God forbid, if that horse gets hurt, my get well card will be on the way.

UD Ghetto

D Ghetto

1 comment:

Tom said...

Hi Dirk,

As a fellow UD alum, and horse racing aficionado, I read your post with interest. A few thoughts.

While gambling is obviously a huge part of Thoroughbred racing, horses the competition that you see on the track has nothing to do with money for the competitors themselves. These athletes run because they love to run.

I believe Thoroughbreds are athletes because they compete based on performance. They are clearly aware of the training patterns that lead up to race day and the rituals that signal to them that they are about to go to the post. They know what's going on. The excitement of horses in the paddock on Breeders' Cup day is palpable. These are champions who've beaten others and earned the right to compete with the best. Listening to jockeys talk about the differences in temperaments between horses is enlightening.

Ever see a horserace up close? Amazing exhibition of power and will. Two Thoroughbreds pounding down the stretch, neck and neck, is stirring...they love to race for reasons going deep into their genetic heritage. Watch their eyes as they run...there's something extraordinary going on there.

And, while we're at it, why do you think people respond to horses they way we do? Sending get well cards and such? I think we see something noble there that touches us pretty deeply.

I'll be at Churchill Downs on November 4 and will definitely put a couple of bucks on UD Ghetto for sentimental reasons. More than anything, though, I'll be enjoying the spectacle. You may not understand it, but that horse will care as much about winning as the punters holding pari mutuels.