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For those of you who by some extremely unlikely set of circumstances happened to stumble upon this page, I apologize to you. For those of you who intentionally came to this page - yikes! As the title of the weblog indicates, these are my Ramblings About Whatever. There is a chance that I will ramble about just about anything (as I am in this introduction), but only a select few topics will actually make this site. Enjoy! (I guess...)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Kentucky Derby and PETA

I was unfortunately unable to see the Kentucky Derby live this year as I was attending a wedding that started near the time when The Run for the Roses began, but just as I thought would be the case from watching the Florida Derby, Big Brown was a very difficult horse to beat.

I understand that one does not show much bravery by picking the favorite to win, but some of the reasons that people gave for why Big Brown would not win seemed somewhat asinine. In this article, Paul Moran points out that no horse so lightly raced (Big Brown had only had three career races completed heading into the Kentucky Derby) and undefeated entering the Derby had won since Regret won in 1915. Do you see what the key is here behind Moran's questioning of Big Brown's chances? It wasn't because Big Brown was so lightly raced heading into the Derby or that he was undefeated heading into the Derby, it was because Big Brown was lightly raced and undefeated heading into the Derby that allowed Moran to go all the way back to 1915 to question Big Brown's chances. Because if you throw out the whole lightly raced criterion (i.e., only having had three prior starts), you would have to go all the way back to 2006 to find the last undefeated horse entering the Derby to be victorious on that first Saturday in May (Barbaro). And before Barbaro in 2006, you would have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the last undefeated horse entering the Derby to win (Smarty Jones).

The question of Big Brown's experience is crucial to Moran's argument and is essentially the only part worth exploring. Who cares that Big Brown was undefeated heading into the Derby? Would this really seem to be a legitimate reason to question his ability to win? In this article, Bill Finley does a better job, in my opinion of explaining the flaw of examining Big Brown's limited amount of starts heading into the Kentucky Derby. He indicates that only nine horses since 1955 had even entered the Derby only having completed three or fewer prior races. Let's say that on average ten horses enter the Kentucky Derby each year (the maximum that are allowed to race in the Derby is twenty so this seems like a reasonable estimate) and that we are looking at fifty-two races (I'm assuming that Finley meant that since the completion of the 1955 Derby, which would make the 1956 Derby the first in the span that he is referencing). So zero of those nine out of 520 horses with only three lifetime prior starts had won the Kentucky Derby since 1955? Wow, that certainly seems to be a significant statistic...

But going all the way back for a moment to the last undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby before Big Brown for a moment, I want to discuss something of real (or at least greater) statistical significance and Barbaro. Just as was the case with Big Brown, Barbaro's last prep race before the Kentucky Derby was the Florida Derby. Here is what Daily Racing Form said about Big Brown's chance of winning from post 12 (the extreme outside post) heading into the Florida Derby:

"Ah, posts 11 and 12. Going 1 1/8 miles on the main track at Gulfstream, with a
short run to the first turn, the outside posts are like the Bermuda Triangle.
Since Gulfstream reconfigured its track four years ago, posts 11 (0 for 18) and
12 (0 for 11) are a combined 0 for 29 at 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the
Florida Derby. Barbaro won from post 10 two years ago, but he was Barbaro."

And if you would like to read what Bloodhorse.com said about or actually see the race, check it out here. The point is that Big Brown completed a more impressive feat than did Barbaro in winning his Florida Derby. From the quote above it is clear that the person speaking has placed Barbaro on quite a lofty pedestal (watching the video of Barbaro's Kentucky Derby victory makes you understand why), so if Big Brown was able to complete a more impressive feat than did Barbaro, take the same amount of time off heading into the Kentucky Derby, and by all objective viewings appear to be vastly more talented than his rivals, then why did so many experts so easily talk themselves out of predicting a Big Brown victory? I suppose those experts might be lacking in experience.

And now on to PETA. This year's Kentucky Derby of course ended tragically with the death of place horse Eight Belles. After having finished the race, she collapsed after a quarter mile of her cool-down following the race, shattering both front ankles. It is quite tragic whenever one of these impressive horses has to be euthanized due to such an injury, and if PETA wants to take on the entire Thoroughbred racing industry, I would say that this would be their prerogative. There are certainly legitimate arguments that can be made that the breeding of Thoroughbreds leads directly to animal suffering. However, this is not what PETA has done. Oh no, they want Eight Belles's jockey suspended. As the the letter that PETA faxed to the Kentucky racing authority states, Eight Belles was obviously injured before the end of the race and so jockey Gabriel Saez should be suspended while Eight Belles's death is investigated. So why even bother investigating? PETA already clearly knows that Eight Belles was injured before the race ended, so what will more silly investigating tell us? Let's just stop wasting time with a silly suspension and just throw Saez in prison for a long time. Right now. This instant. Because obviously Saez knew Eight Belles was hurt before the race ended and just wanted to see her break both front ankles and have to be euthanized. You don't have to interview anyone or investigate anything to know that...

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