Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The First Saturday in May . . .

I spent the afternoon in Louisville today. The magnolias, daffodils, and tulips were in bloom, and naturally, my thoughts turned to the Kentucky Derby. As hard as it is for me to believe, the big race is only twenty-five days and counting.

Time flies.

Statue of Aristides, winner of the first Kentucky Derby.

Considering the fact that my latest mystery, TRIPLE CROSS, is set in Louisville for the running of the Kentucky Derby, you’d think that I’d be a huge horseracing fan when, in fact, I’m not.

I am most definitely drawn to racing, but this is solely a byproduct of my love of the horse, and I have to admit, after Barbaro, my feelings about horseracing are even more conflicted.

Racing is hard on horses, but so are all the equine sports at the upper levels. Let’s face it; as soon as humans are thrown into the mix, our natural competitiveness (and sometimes, greed) causes us to push our horses. So, it’s up to us to do the best job we can to ensure their safety and continued health.

Some will be critical of how we “use” horses, but the truth of the matter is: many of the top equine athletes love what they do.

What happened to Barbaro was tragic, and it broke my heart. But it was an accident. I have admired Barbaro’s trainer, Michael Matz, for decades, having become familiar with him as he competed on the Grand Prix circuit, rode in the Olympics, and later, saved several children when Flight 232 went down in an Iowa cornfield. He is a horseman in the truest sense of the word.

If you haven’t heard about it yet, THE FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY, an independent documentary about the 2006 Kentucky Derby, filmed and produced by two brothers, will be released nationwide later this month, on April 18th. Here’s a clip from the movie:

Banner 2 Banner 1 go!

To learn more about THE FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY, visit:

I found this wonderful clip on YouTube (from the movie) of Michael Matz introducing Barbaro to his son. It's very sweet and really highlights Matz's temperament and horsemanship. Click here.

So, while I'm not a big racing fan, this excerpt from TRIPLE CROSS, sums up how I (and Steve) feel about racehorses:

There’s something about being on the backside of a racetrack just before dawn that is truly magical--standing along the rail when the light’s just coming up, watching the horses move fluidly across the damp earth, their dark shapes silhouetted against a rainbow sky. You stand there, breathing in the clean air, listening to the steady primal rhythm of a galloping horse, and the rest of the world simply does not exist.


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