Monday Smiles – 3/13/2011

Shortly after seeing the 2003 film, Seabisquit, I bought the book Seabisquit – An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand under the assumption that the book is always better than the movie.  It languished in my nightstand until two weeks ago and last Tuesday, I finished it.   This was absolutely the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read.   The research was impeccable and Hillenbrand captured the times perfectly.   She managed to make the description of races exciting, even when you knew the outcome, and the book fills in so much of the back story that the movie misses.   Most compelling, I think, was the working conditions of the jockeys who endured almost slave-like conditions and who ravaged their bodies to “make weight” for the races.   The book also captures the personalities of the horses themselves, who were definitely treated much better than the jockeys.  Just a great read.

Always a Princess

So, Saturday, my wife and I set off to Santa Anita Park to experience first hand the place where many of Seabisquit’s triumphs … and stumbles … took place.   We arrived at 2:00 pm, shortly before the fifth race.   Though I’d never been to the track, my wife had been to Del Mar several times with her friend, Jackie, so she knew what we were supposed to do.   We watched the fifth race then bet $5 on Always a Princess to win in the sixth.   It was exciting … she led almost all the way but I could see something was wrong coming down the stretch, and she fell at the wire.   Very upsetting, a dose of racing reality.   For a while, she didn’t move but then she got to her feet (to the applause of the crowd) and was loaded into the equine ambulance.   To be honest, it cast a bit of a pall over the rest of our afternoon.  Still, we made the best of it, betting in three more races without winning a dime.   We spent some time at the saddling area where we could get close to the magnificent horses and see them warming up then watched the last race at the rail to get a true perspective on how fast the horses were moving.  I got a picture of the Seabisquit statue that’s in the warm up area.

Over dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Duarte, I Googled Always a Princess at Santa Anita and found out that the filly had cracked both sesamoid bones in her left ankle.   Sunday night reported that Always a Princess is resting comfortably following surgery March 13 at the Equine Medical Center in Cypress, and the prognosis is good for her recovery.  She’s lucky … her injury was repairable … and because she had already had success (she’d won $516,000) and has good bloodlines, surgery was worthwhile.   She’ll retire to the farm where she’ll be pampered and used for breeding.   Good for you, Princess.  The jockey, Martin Garcia, was also injured but was expected to meet his riding commitments.

It was a fun and interesting day that came much closer to the grittiness of the book, Seabisquit, than I expected.   The horses were beautiful, as were the races.  Always a Princess is OK. It’s Monday.   I’m smiling**.

** I’m also thinking … what a surprise.   Is the collapse of a horse just freak accident that can’t be comfortably used to condemn the sport, as Sean Gregory said in an article in Time about the 2008 Kentucky Derby that saw Eight Belles euthanized after breaking both ankles, or is something amiss?  There are those who say that thoroughbreds are trained and raced too young, before their bones are mature, causing injuries or that they are being bred increasingly fragile in the search for speed.    There are claims of inhumane practices by trainers, particularly at the lower echelons of racing, to get horses to run faster or run injured.   And it’s said that the overproduction of yearlings leads to many fit horses being slaughtered for meat, which has spawned a number of rescue organizations and discussions of reform.   Is the sport inherently inhumane or in need of reform?

Do you have an opinion?

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6 Comments on “Monday Smiles – 3/13/2011”

  1. Your Monday Smiles always make me smile. I’ve never been to a horse race – I dont know much about them at all. I’ve never seen or read the book Seabisquit – but you may have inspired me to read the book!

  2. territerri Says:

    Thanks for the review of the book. I’ll be adding that to my reading wish list.

    I’ve been to the races once or twice, but never saw the excitement you did, or got close enough to get an appreciation for what is really happening on the track. What an emotional day that must have been.

    • oldereyes Says:

      I think having just read the book added a lot to the experience. I actually felt a little silly obsessing over the fate of that poor horse, but the fact that we bet on her because we call my grand daughter Princess probably had something to do with it.

      The book is great.

  3. nobusysignal Says:

    My love of reading was instilled me very early in life by a Dominican nun,sister Mary, she was my second grade teacher. I like to say that reading is like watching a movie in your head minus the commercials.

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