Monday, June 9, 2008

Myths about the Belmont

I will say this for this year’s Triple Crown—it got people talking.

From the tragic breakdown of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby to Big Brown’s stunning loss in the Belmont, there’s been plenty of fodder for TV pundits and online message boards—80 percent of which comes from people who can’t tell one end of a horse from the other.

In the aftermath of Big Brown’s loss, two myths have been thrown around the electronic media that need to be addressed.

Myth #1: There is nothing wrong with Big Brown. This was the first thing that came out of the mouths of most of ESPN’s on-air personalities after the race. Even on-air vet Larry Bramlage assured viewers that nothing was wrong with the horse.

Perhaps this collective denial is an attempt to keep PETA at bay, but it’s belied by the running of the race itself. Big Brown was trying to bear out throughout the race, to the point where I thought he might blow the first turn. I’ve seen many horses run the same way, and it’s usually due to some sort of pain in a left leg. Big Brown’s quarter crack was in the left front.

Maybe the quarter crack wasn’t healed as well as trainer Rick Dutrow claimed. Maybe the cause was more mundane—he may have been overheated or have bled. In any case, there was something wrong with the horse. Which brings me to….

Myth #2: The Belmont was fixed. I’m amazed at the number of people online who are making this claim. People actually think that there was a conspiracy to stiff a potential Triple Crown winner in order to cash a big bet.

This was not a $5,000 claiming race. This was one of the biggest races of the year with a $5 million bonus on the line. Are we supposed to believe that Kent Desormeaux would throw that away—not to mention a place in racing history—in order to hit the trifecta?

Desormeaux eased Big Brown because, again, there was something wrong with him. He was doing what he thought was best for the horse, and I applaud him for that.

The problem with Big Brown will eventually be revealed, and I will not be surprised if he never races again.

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