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Roger MacDonald

Her Majesty the Queen, and the Sport of Kings
By Roger MacDonald
May 7, 2007 - 6:49:36 PM

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Once a year the premier American horse race captures our imagination, but it's a year round road to Louisville.

The Queen of England, Elizabeth II, made her first visit to the Kentucky Derby to witness "The Run for the Roses."

Street Sense, the favorite made an exciting race of it, by waiting on the rail in the back of the field, and then in a masterful display by jockey Calvin Borel, cutting through pack and passing the pacesetting Hard Spun ridden by Mario Pino.

In the day long sport channel coverage of the event, mention was made of the "unsung heroes" in horsemanship, both in the racing and show horse worlds. Over this past Winter, I did work on a farm run by a woman who is a horse dealer. The day to day care of horses at that level doesn't really compare to the level of expertise demanded of grooms, walkers, and the exercise riders that care for thoroughbreds, but I did garner some inkling of what a career in horsemanship demands.

In January, just at the beginning of the coldest part of our past Winter, one of the horses, named Scorpion, died. No one is sure of the cause, but speculation was, that another horse that was known for a bad attitude, kicked Scorpion in the head. It fell to me to deal with it. Scorpion died on a Saturday and the truck to take him away couldn't make it out until Tuesday. It was a very good thing it was so cold.

The truck arrives and can't negotiate the small bridge leading onto the property. I'll have to drag Scorpion over the bridge that has no railings, up to where the he can be dealt with by the truck, with an all terrain vehicle. Poor Scorpion was frozen into the snow and I had to hit his legs to free him enough so he'll slide over the snow and bridge to the steeply sloped driveway. As I was hitting his legs to break him out of the snow it came to me; I'm beating a dead horse.

After completing the task and some laughter, I reflected on the hard work and fortitude on the part of the legion of people that make the sport of kings possible.

With both on and off track betting, the racing industry is committed to the integrity of the sport. Thoroughbreds must be registered and tattooed with serial numbers that verified before each race. The breeding of thoroughbreds is a closely monitored endeavor. Only the natural mating of horses, with no artificial means included, is allowed.

Saturday, May 19th is The Preakness, the second race of the triple crown, will run at Pimlico here in Maryland. Last year was the heartbreak of Barbero's injury and the national outpouring of concern for a great animal and champion. There has not been a triple crown winner for twenty-nine years; since Affirmed in 1978.

While we cheer for our favorite horse that we know, jockey, or just a horse's name we like, remember those that make it possible, and the diligence of the racing commissions that guard the integrity of the sport.

The hard work, diligence, and sacrifices of the rank and file of the racing industry, grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders, horse shippers, leg specialists, and farriers. Should not be forgotten in the glitz, touched this year with royalty.


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