One Day We’ll Get Nostalgic for Disaster

May 7, 2008 § 1 Comment

We are questioning everything. Why we love the things we love. If this was a mistake; if that was a mistake; if the whole thing was wrong from the start. We bargain, we argue, we cry; we try and fail to make the whole thing add up. We grieve; we eat sandwiches of guilt, shame and tomatoes. We made a mountain of of this molehill, and then made the mountain into a state and the state into a country. Eventually, we stopped asking questions and started pointing fingers at each other. And, more carefully, at the people around us.

These are the best of times; they are the worst of times.

We are trying to remember to be gentle. And kind. And trying to remember that often nothing is gentle or kind.

I don’t know what to say, so I am saying nothing at all.


There is no way The New York Times will publish this letter, because it’s crazy talk, but it’s where we ended. It is our solution. We are not the only ones; we wish we could say we were done, that we are walking away, that we are turning our backs, but we cannot. We cannot put an end to pain by ignoring it.

To the Editor:

Re ‘So Young, So Strong, So Fast and Oh So Very Sad’ (essay, May 4)

My husband and I, lifetime racing fans, watched the 134th Kentucky Derby from the Churchill Downs grandstand; afterward, we watched brokenhearted fans sobbing in their seats. We’ve been soul-searching since.

We agree with Jane Smiley; having watched Barbaro, Pine Island, George Washington and now Eight Belles crumple, horse racing must change. It is a matter, now, of convincing breeders and buyers. Our proposal is this: Create a race that is more important than the Triple Crown.

Stop rewarding speed and start rewarding longevity with new race open only to six-year-olds with at least 20 starts, held at Keeneland – or another track that has switched to synthetics – with a purse of $8 million, run over a mile and an eighth, in honor of Eight Belles.

Perhaps by creating a loftier goal, breeders and buyers will stop creating brittle, precocious speedsters – and curate stronger, sturdier horses built to last. It’s a longshot, but this sport loves a longshot – and only when this shift in thinking begins can horse racing truly begin to change, and heal.

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