In his latest column on ESPN, Steve Davidowitz frets over the atypically (for racing as a whole) large field size (20) for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. More specifically, with so many horses jostling for position, Davidowitz imagines a nightmarish pileup and the public backlash that would surely follow:
“I pray to myself every time they open the Derby starting gate that no horse is going to be knocked so badly off stride that he causes a chain reaction of carnage similar to what we sometimes see during the first quarter-mile of the Indianapolis 500. Lord knows, Churchill Downs and all the people who love horse racing do not want to see anything close to something like that. The negative consequences from such a disaster would be the toughest body blow Churchill Downs and the racing industry ever has suffered.”
On this, Davidowitz is exactly right – racing, precarious racing, can ill afford a kill or two on its biggest day of the year. But to those of us paying attention, a breakdown at the Kentucky Derby would just be another among many hundreds that occur each year. While true that California Chrome and the rest are far more valuable than the pedestrian card-fillers we see at most tracks, that value only extends to their humans’ balance sheets. In truth, tomorrow’s golden group is morally indistinguishable from this one.