Archive for Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Commentary: Quit pointing fingers in filly’s death

PETA’s reaction to Kentucky Derby euthanization is only cruel part of this story

May 6, 2008


"Momento y rapido."

Those were the words Gabriel Saez said to his agent, Ruben Munoz, in an attempt to explain what had just happened beneath him as he galloped out a filly named Eight Belles, who had just run second to Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby.

Sudden and fast. The 20-year-old jock from Panama, riding in his first Derby on Saturday, had no better idea than any of the 157,000 in the stands or the millions watching on television of why the world had collapsed underneath him. All he knew was that it happened quickly and without warning.

Just like that, what should have been a dream weekend - Saez had won the Kentucky Oaks on Friday aboard Proud Spell, for the same trainer, Larry Jones - had become a nightmare.

Now, he has powerful people calling for him to be suspended and for the $400,000 second-place purse, of which Saez would receive 10 percent, to be held up or even returned.

"We're still looking into what we could conceivably get," said Kathy Guillermo, a spokeswoman for PETA, which is exploiting Eight Belles every bit as much as they claim the racing industry did, and is treating Saez with the same kind of cruelty and inhumanity it purports to abhor toward animals.

"This is something Gabriel just can't comprehend," Munoz said. "When I told him there were people blaming him, he was like, 'What do you mean? How could anyone think I would want to hurt a horse?' He's devastated by this. It doesn't fit into his mind that people could even think such a thing."

Saez, who speaks little English, had three mounts at Delaware Park on Monday. The last thing he wanted to do was talk about a horse that died under him, a tragedy he is now accused of being an accessory to. He told Munoz: "I was on horses before I was born. My mother went riding when I was inside of her. That is why I became a rider."

But in the wake of a tragedy, the urge to point fingers is strong. PETA, equipped with powerful fingers quite skilled at directing the media to do its bidding, did nothing to resist that urge Monday.

"He was whipping to the bitter, bitter end," Guillermo said. "It seems inconceivable that she could break both ankles while cantering after the race. We want an investigation into what happened."

If you, too, are looking to place blame for the death of Eight Belles, there is no shortage of candidates.

Like PETA, you can blame the jockey and trainer. You can blame the owner or the vet. You could blame the roar of the crowd for spurring her on to her death, or the breathtaking ability of the colt she was chasing for leading her to it. You could blame her grandsire, Unbridled, who apparently bequeathed to his progeny the desire to run faster than their bodies can safely go.

You can blame the industry for profiting off the labor of animals who have no say in, nor control over, their destinies.

Or, you can blame Mother Nature or whoever you credit with the creation of so magnificent and preposterous a creature as the thoroughbred racehorse. Now, you've picked a winner.


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