Derby Fever

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I’m not sure how many of you know it, but The Horse is owned by Blood-Horse Publications, which publishes The Blood-Horse weekly Thoroughbred news magazine and owns Bloodhorse.com. I started my career at that magazine 29 years ago this October (I took a cut in pay from working as a groom at Kenirey Stud, then a division of Three Chimneys Farm, to start at The Blood-Horse).

This coming weekend is the Kentucky Derby, one of the two things that people know about this state no matter where you travel in the world. (The other is Kentucky Fried Chicken.)  This morning I went to the backside at Churchill Downs to visit old friends and see the spectacular horses at the track.

This morning people on the backside were still mourning the accident during training hours yesterday when a loose colt bolted into a filly and caused her death. The excitement that always permeates the backside prior to the Derby was dulled by the tragic accident. That’s not a part of the industry that most outsiders know about. It’s like an 1800s town on the backside of a racetrack. You might have different jobs, work in different barns, and even compete against each other and squabble every now and then, but it’s still one big family. You depend on each other, and you understand each other. And your mourn for each other’s losses.

The colt Square Eddie was declared out of the Derby this morning. He had suffered from a sore shin earlier in his career, and after coming back from the track yesterday some heat was found in that shin. His trainer Doug O’Neill said veterinarian Mark Cheney recommended time off before resuming training, and the owner and trainer took that advice, heartbreaking though it must have been. It’s nice to see people doing the right thing by the horse. Kudos to that team

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