Monday, May 7, 2018 at 7:25 AM

Justify Wins Kentucky Derby. But Horse Racing Is Still Unjustified

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

I feel obliged to begin with a perverse confession.

I find horse racing morally repugnant. But I love Audible books.

Therefore, as I read the results of this race, I was seized with a wistful thought that the horse by that name should have won. I suppose the poetic justice in that would have mitigated the moral injustice inherent in this barbaric sport. But Audible ended up being just a “show” horse.

That said,

[Justify,] the highly touted 3-year-old colt ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Bob Baffert[,] ended a 136-year run since a horse won the Derby without having raced at age 2. With the so-called ‘Curse of Apollo’ reversed, Justify’s connections can now turn their sights toward a Triple Crown bid.

(Yahoo Sports, May 5, 2018)

Forget the curse of Apollo, Justify – who won by one of the largest margins in history – should fear the curse of Barbaro. This excerpt from “National Mourning for a Horse? Puh-leeese,” January 31, 2007, explains why.


I don’t get the emotional attachment so many people have to this horse. Then again, it probably takes understanding the psychology at play in Peter Shaffer’s Equus to get it. But I think racing horses for sport has all of the redeeming social value of cockfighting (or, given the Michael Vick scandal, dogfighting).

Therefore, I had no emotional interest in the life-and-death struggle of this race horse that had so many people holding vigil until he was euthanized on Monday.

Barbaro, of course, was the latest winner of the Kentucky Derby — by one of the largest margins in history. His win had Equine mobs betting he would be the first horse to win the elusive Triple Crown since Affirmed did it almost 30 years ago (in 1978). Only eleven horses have achieved the dubious honor of galloping to victory in the three grueling Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes – over a five-week period. …

Unfortunately, at the start of the second race in this trifecta (last May’s 131st Preakness Stakes), Barbaro shattered his right hind leg. …

I know enough about [horse racing] to know that – in almost every case – a horse suffering such an injury would have been shot on the spot (to put him out of his obvious misery). …

But many regarded Barbaro as the second coming of Secretariat. In fact, this horse was so worshipped, it seemed everyone connected to or interested in horse racing wanted Veterinarians to take extraordinary measures to prolong his life.

At long last, the Vets finally did on Monday what they should have done the day he was injured 8 months ago. Because all they ended up doing was prolonging Barbaro’s misery. …

The sport of kings? Indeed. But so is fox hunting.


Clearly, I’ve been beating this dead horse for years. My abiding hope is that fans will find the Barbaro precedent so unconscionable it will turn them off this sport.

Racehorses are the victims of a multibillion-dollar industry that is rife with drug abuse, injuries, and race fixing, and many horses’ careers end at the slaughterhouse.


Unfortunately, reports are that 157,000 people braved unprecedented security on the wettest and muddiest grounds in history at Churchill Downs to watch this race. And millions more watched it on TV. Hope springs eternal …

Meanwhile, American Pharaoh sapped the Triple Crown of much of its suspense when it finally succeeded Affirmed in 2015, breaking a 37-year streak of dashed hopes.

Therefore, you’d think fans would be loath to buy into the Triple-Crown hype sports betting syndicates are propagating. Yet they are already getting their hopes up and wallets out as if Justify really is the second coming of Secretariat. #Suckers!

Related commentaries:
American Pharoah

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