The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Horse racing’s past stands out

In 1973, Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes consecutively, making him the first Triple Crown Winner in 25 years.

But what is more striking is that in the 40 years since Secretariat made horse racing history, no horse has been able to break his record.

With breeding practices today, we may never see another horse break Secretariat’s record, let alone win the Triple Crown.

Orb became the 139th winner of the Kentucky Derby on May 4. The brown “dark horse,” covered in mud from running in the back of the pack, appeared seemingly out of nowhere down the backstretch to overtake the frontrunners and claim victory.

With a time of 2:02.89, Orb ran an impressive race on a sloppy, wet track at Churchill Downs.

But his time still doesn’t come close to touching Secretariat’s time of 1:59.4. While 4 seconds may not seem like a lot, in the world of horse racing it can be enough time to change history.

A NBC Sports reporter said during Saturday’s broadcast of the race that Secretariat’s record “logically shouldn’t have lasted this long.”

For instance, the human record for the 100-meter dash in 1973, the same year Secretariat made history with his record, was just under 10 seconds. That record has been broken 12 times since then.

It begs the question: why hasn’t Secretariat’s record been broken after all this time?

Horse racing isn’t what it used to be.

What was once considered to be “the sport of kings” has now devolved into a spectator sport that has little regard for the actual horses, and the only thing that matters anymore is speed.

My theory is that Thoroughbred breeders today place such an emphasis on speed that strength becomes a second priority. It’s all well and good if a horse can outrun all the others, but what if its body isn’t strong enough to support that speed?

That’s what happened to Barbaro, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 but shattered one of his hind legs two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes and was eventually euthanized.

I remember watching that race as a 12-year-old girl, feeling horrified to see Barbaro faltering on the track. For the first time I started to see another side of modern horse racing, one that ultimately lead me to believe it has turned into a cruel industry.

Only a very small percentage of Thoroughbreds in the U.S make it to the Kentucky Derby. The rest either end up running in low-grade races until the end of their careers, a point when many are sent to slaughter, or becoming fatally injured.

To me, the worst part is that these horses are only babies by human standards. Most racehorses begin training at 18 months and finish their careers before they are 10 years old. Barbaro was only four years old when he died.

Ironically, with all the emphasis being placed on breeding for speed these days, Secretariat’s record still stands.

It is my belief that if Secretariat’s records have not been broken by now, they probably never will be. Perhaps I am wrong and Orb will become the first winner of the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Honestly, I just hope he doesn’t end up like Barbaro.

Ashcraft is a junior majoring in journalism. 

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