I have a picture of Eight Belles in my office on the wall. You remember Eight Belles. She was the filly that ran in the Kentucky Derby last year and broke both her legs after finishing second in a field of nineteen boys. She was only the fourth filly to run in the Kentucky Derby in a bunch of years (I can’t remember how many). Sports Pundits all across America sang of her strength, her commitment, her heart. Animal activists cried of the cruelty of the race and said this should not be happening. It’s the dirt rather than grass; there are too many in the field, there is too much inbreeding and the lower legs are no longer strong enough, and so on.
I didn’t watch the Derby last year and have always felt the fraud when attending Derby parties where everyone seemed to really care about what horse crossed the finish line first. If I bet, it was based on the way the name of the horse struck me, not anything about the horse. And, I stopped going a number of years ago when I realized that I just didn’t feel good about watching them run, run, run being beaten with sticks the whole time. I wonder if the Olympic runners would run faster is someone ran behind them beating them with stick? I am told it doesn’t hurt, but I don’t believe them.
Her trainer was very strange. “She ran a whale of a race. She ran the race of her life,” Jones said, fighting back tears. “She ran great. She went out in glory,” Jones said. “She went out a champion to us.” Don’t you think that’s a strange thing to say? But let’s not dwell there; I’m sure he’s thinking of her this week, and so am I.
Eight Belles will sit on my wall for a long time to come. I draw strength from her. She gets added to the list of strong women in our history who have gone before, done their best and didn’t always get what they deserved.