Whole Heap of Little Horse Links

Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 8) terracotta horses, photographed by author at National Museum of China, Beijing, by author.

Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 8) terracotta horses, photographed by author at National Museum of China, Beijing.

  • What the what? No, this is not breaking news, but something I discovered today. Lambourn will have the UK’s first “horse monorail” courtesy of Turkish industrialist and racehorse owner, Mehmet Kurt. As far as I can tell it’s a horsewalker from Tron (have a look at the photo here); apparently the “Kurtsystem” will be great for rehabilitating horses. You learn something new every day. (Newbury Today)
  • The NYT reports on the presentation by Turkmenistan of an Akhal Teke stallion to President Xi Jinping of China. There’s a little on the story of this “heavenly horse” in Chinese history and its current return. I was surprised to read that Genghis Khan rode one – curious to see what the Mongolians would make of that. (New York Times)
  • Meanwhile, someone’s riding lesson went very wrong when a saddled and bridled horse ended up galloping riderless around Beijing’s fifth ring road, chased by a dog. (Shanghaist)
  • Jalopnik on how Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome gets about now that he’s a champ. (Jalopnik)

Horse Laughs

I love it when The Onion does horse racing. Mind you, this reads as though they’ve been following the New York Times coverage

LOUISVILLE, KY—Shaken and trembling Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, who came from behind and outside on the final turn to win the Kentucky Derby in a breathtaking display of speed and panic, is reportedly hoping that nothing like the 1-1/4-mile race ever happens to him again.

“What just—what in the hell was that?” the chestnut colt asked reporters shortly after crossing the wire Saturday to beat odds-on favorite Bodemeister by one and a half lengths and finish in a respectable 2:01.83. “Seriously, with all the screaming, and everyone running, and [jockey] Mario [Gutierrez] standing up out of the saddle, I pretty much lost it. That was, without a doubt, the worst thing I’ve ever been through in my life.”

Although it would end in victory and horror, the day started quietly enough for I’ll Have Another, with a brisk walk around Churchill Downs’ scenic paddock. But as the afternoon wore on, things became “extremely weird” for the young horse.

Read on here.

Frangible Racehorses, PETA and Keeneland

Fran Jurga has a detailed article on PETA’s latest bid to help animals, and for once it looks like I might agree with them (I’ll spare you the laundry list of their more idiotic and downright offensive campaigns). In the run up to the Keeneland September Select Yearling Sales PETA released a video of two-year-olds breezing on the racetrack in time trials before they go into the auction ring. And breaking down. Hideously. I can’t watch the film – I’ve seen races where this has happened and I don’t need to see it on repeat.

On the one hand, horses are, like humans, mortal and prone to accidents. On the other, they also need time to grow and develop bone without being hammered on a nasty surface at a young age. That tends to be bad for them, oddly enough. The relevant auctions took place in June. Now, in Europe there are group races for two-year-olds as early as June (the Coventry, Queen Mary, Albany, Chesham and Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot) and two-year-olds can even race against older horses in the Nunthorpe Stakes in August. All are run on true turf and contested by horses who are deemed precocious enough to compete. Presumably the youngsters who are breezed for auction are breezed because they are unraced, and perhaps are unraced because they’re not yet thought strong enough to do so? I’m confused about what’s going on here, but it’s clear that there needs to be some kind of screening process to ensure horses are physically ready for time trials and racing (again, I’m dumb, does this already happen? If not, then given the incredible level of veterinary medicine which surrounds horse racing, why not?). Perhaps too, as people have long been muttering, we need to selectively breed for qualities which will support that precocious speed, as Temple Grandin put it earlier this year.

Run for the Rosie

‘When Rosie Napravnik was 7 years old, she rode in her first pony race. “I was pretty much hooked to the thrill of the speed since then,” she said.’

On Saturday Rosie will become the seventh woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Read more about her here and watch her in action.

The Queen is Dead; Long Live the Queen

Zenyatta’s poor jockey, Mike Smith is mortified that she was just pipped in the Classic, but then there was Goldikova, the French filly who last night became one of the greatest milers of all time:

Riding the Wind

Take a ride on the brilliant racemare Zenyatta, who will try to win the twentieth race of a twenty race career tonight at Churchill Downs, Kentucky: the $5,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. God but she’s shiney.

America’s Narcotics Problem

Thanks to Karen Krizanovich for sending me this New York Times piece on the use of drugs in US horse racing in the run up to the Breeders’ Cup championship day. I’ve bolded for emphasis… I do not know how any true horseman or horsewoman could send injured horses into competition.

“A Jockey Club study released last March determined that racehorses died at the rate of 2.04 per 1,000 starts in the United States and Canada, a rate twice as deadly as in any other country. The Jockey Club has pointed to multiple studies that show permissive drug rules are part of the cause of the high mortality rates. It has gotten the Association of Racing Commissioners International, or R.C.I., to lower the allowable level of phenylbutazone, which can be used to mask injuries to horses.”

I suppose it’s a start…