This past weekend, a horse named Funny Cide competed in the Belmont Stakes, attempting to become the first horse in twenty-five years to win the Triple Crown. Funny Cide had been a surprise winner of both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the first two legs of the Triple Crown. If Funny Cide won the Belmont, he'd win a multimillion dollar bonus and achieve the status of legend. And I couldn't care less, since horse racing isn't a sport.
Horse racing is an elaborate gambling exercise, not a real athletic competition. Horses aren't athletes, for one, because they're horses. For another, whips are prominently used in horse races. Any "athlete" that gets regularly struck with a whip during competition is something less than self-motivated. That, or they play basketball for Bobby Knight.
Mainly, I have a problem with horse racing because the "athletes" are all one minor leg injury away from being shot in the head. What if baseball were like that?
"Slow roller to short. Vizcaino throws to first and just gets Ray Durham by a step. And Durham is hurt. He's clutching his hamstring. Here comes trainer Stan Conte.... And he has shot Ray Durham in the head. Ray Durham, shot in the head. What a career for this great second baseman! That hamstring pull would have left Durham in pain, so it's best that he went quickly."
And later: "Fly ball to left, medium deep. Bagwell tags up. Bonds is going to have a play at the plate. Here's the throw and there's a huge collision at home plate, and Bagwell is out! Bagwell and Santiago are both slow to get up, and... both are shot in the head! Wow! What a turn of events! I cannot believe Benito Santiago held on... even in death, his glove clutches the ball. So we go the bottom of the seventh, where the Giants will send up Aurilia, Bonds, and a pinch-hitter."
To be fair, a leg injury isn't necessarily a death sentence for a horse. In 1999, a Triple Crown aspirant named Charismatic broke its leg at the Belmont and was saved by its jockey. Still, that rescue and medical care was motivated not only by concern for the animal, but also concern for the millions of dollars in stud fees the champion horse would later command. Funny Cide is a gelding, and sans testicules, is not a candidate for breeding. If Funny Cide had broken a nail on its charge down the stretch, it would have been at the glue factory by Monday morning.
Before the race went off on Sunday, I told anyone that would listen that Funny Cide didn't have the stones to win the Triple Crown. I also pre-emptively claimed that, due to the wet track, Funny Cide's potential Triple Crown would be "tainted." The record book did not require an asterisk, however, as Empire Maker denied Funny Cide by winning the Belmont. Plus, Empire Maker still has his testicles, so it's like a double victory.
As for me, I won a dollar each betting against Funny Cide and Supervisor (the most mediocre horse name in history), but lost it back after giving an Empire Maker bettor 2:1 odds. Since I also still have both my testicles, I consider it a win.
The final word on the Belmont Stakes comes from SF Chronicle sportswriter Gwen Knapp, who wrote something funnier than I could even make up:
A surgeon took his manhood biologically, but in every other sense, this horse had not been neutered.