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Monday, May 05, 2008

Horse Races of a Sort

Somehow, somewhere back in the sands of time, political races came to be identified with horse races. Really not sure how that got started, and I'm pretty sure it offends the horses.

This comparison took an interesting twist this weekend at the Kentucky Derby. Senator Clinton made it clear that she was betting on Eight Belles to win, place and show (as a show of solidarity with the only filly in the race). Senator Obama made his bets public also ( Colonel John, Big Brown, and Pyro). I'm not entirely sure why they publicized their bets. You'd think they were pandering for votes or something.

But, I digress. Most of you have already heard what happened at the Derby- Big Brown won, and Eight Belles surprised everyone by placing. As Eight Belles ran out after the race, her front legs buckled due to compound fractures in both ankles (the same injury that Barbaro had in one leg), and she was put down on the track. (PETA, of course, doesn't get it. Horses, especially thoroughbreds, run. It's what they do. They're very competitive, and they live to run.)

Shortly after Eight Belles was put down, comments comparing the Derby results and the DNC race for the nomination began flowing. They almost seemed to write themselves. Here's probably the most concise example of the theme.
Big Brown wins, and the filly is down.
The Democratic primary, ladies and gentlemen
There were other, more... jaded, perhaps?... comments contemplating Hillary's eventual outcome a little more literally than I feel comfortable with. The Derby even rated a post on ABC's political blog, but I'm not sure there was a point to the post, except to say "Hillary's chosen horse died." Did I miss something?

Is politics so tedious that this is what it's come to? Sad...

Getting away from the political race for a moment and back to the real horse race, a commenter at Ace's brought up an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. To summarize, all twenty horses in last weekend's Derby were descendants of Native Dancer- a Derby placer from the 1950s. 75% of all thoroughbreds in the United States are from his bloodline. For those of you who remember your genetics from high school biology, you see the problem.
Like hemophilia in the Russian royal family, Native Dancer's line has a tragic flaw. Thanks in part to heavily muscled legs and a violent, herky-jerky running style, Native Dancer and his descendants have had trouble with their feet. Injuries have cut short the careers of several of his most famous kin, most notably Barbaro, a great-great-great-grandson who was injured during the Preakness Stakes and was later put to death.
And now, a great-great-great-great granddaughter. (Not only did she have Native Dancer on both sides of her pedigree, even closer in, Mr. Prospector was her maternal grandfather and paternal great-grandfather.)

Fortunately, it looks like the racing community has taken notice of the problem, and they're starting to search for new blood.

OK... back to the other "horse race" (I still think that's demeaning to the horses)- one other interesting "comparison" of the Obama/Clinton slugfest to the Derby is that Big Brown, the winner of the Derby, has run in only a few races. Sounds like someone else running in the race, no?

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