May 17, 2008

Preakness preview

The Preakness Stakes is today. ESPN is having a round-table discussion about what should be done to protect the health and safety of thoroughbreds, given the death of Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby. Breeding techniques, and the reliance on shallow bloodlines to get a superstar, are partially to blame for perpetuating certain genetic defects. Then there are the legalized drugs, such as Lasix, anabolic steroids and corticosteroids, that allow trainers and jockeys to push horses beyond their natural limits.

Owners, trainers and organizers are getting nervous enough to talk about reform. I wouldn't hold my breath. This is a sport of aristocrats and addicts, and if everything comes off OK today, then the momentum for change will get swallowed in a debate mired in the rhetoric of tradition. And the rest of us, who don't think much about horse racing except when the Triple Crown comes around, will turn our attention elsewhere.

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