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THE BREEDERS' CUP
I was standing at the rail, not six feet from where Go for Wand collapsed, with camera in hand, but I could not take a photo. I am a racing writer myself, serving as New England correspondent for The Blood-Horse, so seeing horses being put down is not new to me. It happens, and it has to be covered, but it should be done in a more tactful and responsible manner. There's a reason track officials put up that screen—to spare us from seeing what SI chose to show so graphically.
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, the words would have been enough.
As a horse lover, I was touched by the compassionate manner in which SI reported the Breeders' Cup disasters. One would not have to be an animal rights activist to be shocked, saddened and angered by the three equine deaths on the Belmont track. Only one of those deaths, Shaker Knit's, was an accident. The other two were the direct result of asking a horse for too much too soon. The thoroughbred racing industry is putting on the track young horses who are still developing physically and mentally and pounding their bones, joints and tendons until the inevitable breakdowns occur. There is no justification for the pain and terror that Go for Wand suffered, no matter how brief.
Why should the Breeders' Cup tragedy come as a shock? Incidents like this occur frequently across this country to many horses. In reality, these horses are the lucky ones, since many thoroughbreds experience pain and suffering during their careers. The deaths of Go for Wand, Mr. Nickerson and Shaker Knit may grab the sympathy of the public for a short time, but they will do nothing to change the inhumanity of the sport.
That such a wonderful filly suffered such a horrible injury brought deep, personal grief to horse lovers everywhere. High salaries and huge payoffs are so rare in our sport that only the love of horses explains why most people are involved in racing, whether as owners, trainers or grooms. It is hard to imagine how thoroughbred racing could have been presented in a more negative way than it was in SI. For casual readers sickened by the photographs, we can only report our own distress and say that were it not for the fact that this sort of thing is uncommon, we wouldn't be a part of racing.
REMEMBERING GO FOR WAND