What the heck has happened to the Kentucky Derby? The Run for the Roses? My Old Kentucky Home? Where are those folks that prayed over a blue grass field on a cold January day as a new foal tested its legs on the winter hard ground? A smile of understanding on their faces as legs new to this world found their strength and gave flight to the babe across grasses green. Where are those who live and breathe the scent of fresh pine shavings and horse sweat as the summer heat swelters in across the pastures? They struggle, they budget and they do without, yet they embrace the passion of something deeply encoded in their DNA and keep going even though the odds are long. All I’ve seen today is some sort of detached Red Carpet Gala. Who’s wearing who’s what and who’s with who. Where are those who mucked the stalls and mowed the fields, cutting back here and there in hopes that young colt they’d been raising could run for greatness? But Oh look Boink Boink has on Givenchy!
Well to be honest I’ll tell you where they are, or to be more correct where we are. We’ll be the tired lady who’s pulled a 60 hour week in a world we detest, but the one who does it with a smile because it allows us to be here. No not sipping champagne and hoping to be the next viral hashtag of the moment. But here, here in the seedy sale barns and desolate kill pens that are located all over this land. We won’t be dining on Lobster or winking at Billionaires. We will be cracking that ninety nine cent can of Vienna Sausages and watching the kill buyer. Yes, if we’ve got to wink, we might and yes, if we’ve got to do more, well, we may. But somewhere this side of a Lady on TV with more names than a Hanoverian Warmblood Stud who’s telling us the pedigree of her billion dollar bet. We will be the ones with our hearts caught in our throats as a beat up, half-starved relative of Hanoverian ladies billion dollar bet stumbles into the auction lot. We will hope and pray. Sometimes we’ll remember the payday loan place we passed a while back, add, subtract and calculate that we’ll have the money the pull the beaten soul from this hell. Somewhere in the back ground we’ll hear the semis rumble as they fire their engines and get ready for long, cold, waterless, hungry, journey to the north. We will smell the diesel, our blood will run cold. A journey that will carry the beat up, half-starved gray filly a relative of the fancy ladies bet, north to have a bolt shot through her head. Dead or not even quite, she’ll be chopped, minced and packed. Brilliant eyes will shine no longer, a gallant heart will beat no more and hooves will never again find their flight across the grassy green earth. But oh look, Edna Farquar Mills Helms Rosenburg Jones is wearing a daringly short skirt at age 78. Who’s it by?
The winds will blow, the kill buyers will shout and the scared filly will run up and down a 20 ft lot. Miles away surrounded in glory and grandeur a well attired man will smile to himself as he places his money on a colt. More money than the lady in sale barn has ever known. He does it simply because he likes the dam’s name. The same dam that gave life and nurture to the terrified filly now shuddering under the vicious crack of the sellers whip as she runs back and forth with nowhere to go. The well attired man sends a text to his well-heeled buddies to take the gamble on the colt upon which he’s laid his thousands. At the same moment the tired lady places a post on Facebook to her friends begging for money, if she just had enough she can save the gallant gray filly. The filly, it’s in her eyes, she has fire, and she deserves a chance. The whip cracks again and the scared filly runs.
A busy café in downtown Manhattan. The place to see and be seen. Two wealthy businessmen dine on filet mignon, sucking down gin and tonics. They both grasp their phones as the incoming texts vibrate the table. Their well attired boss at the Derby just gave them a line on a horse encouraging them to place a wager. The waitress at the bar, waiting on another round of gin & tonics, cringes at their stares and checks her phone. She sees the post, a wild eyed gray filly scared to death, in a kill pen in Montana, a lady she’s never met, but has followed her threads needs money. She’s trying to save the starved terrified filly. She loads the drinks on the tray and heads back to the businessmen. They are not so busy texting that they forget to ogle her. She smiles to herself, here you go girl, maybe I won’t ever run free, but by God in Heaven, you will. She smiles at them and leans in close as she serves their libations. She cannot stand their eyes upon her, nothing more than an item for their play, but she sees the filly spinning in the kill lot, hears the crack of the whip and decides her path. The men smile as their phones go off once again, the well attired man informs them of the windfall. The bet he made on the horse by simply the name of the dam had paid off. They smiled, polished off their drinks, asked for her number which she gave and left her a more than generous tip. In busy café in downtown Manhattan a waitress makes a call.
The lady at the sale barn cold and exhausted raises her hand, offering her last dollars in a final plea to save gray filly terrified for her life. It’s not enough, her world spins. Her phone vibrates, a girl in New York who she’s never met has the balance, and she’s sending it now. She places the bid, the filly turns sharp in the far corner of the pen and crumples to her knees as the whip licks her sweat tendered flesh. Time stands still as the words “Sold” echo across the pen. They did it, one tired lady, one fed up waitress and somewhere unbeknownst to him, a well attired man, saved a filly to run free another day. Oh but did you hear? Instagram sensation Lula broke a seventeen thousand dollar heel coming back from the paddocks and had a wardrobe malfunction.
So what have they done to our Derby? But more than that, what have they done to our horses and to us? In any case a well-dressed Billionaire has just decided to go into the horse business deciding to follow a certain mare’s bloodline. A waitress in Manhattan has just packed her car, picked up her last check and is rolling for Montana. One exhausted lady is kicked back in her pick up eating the last can of Vienna Sausages with a tired gray filly munching hay happily in her two horse trailer and damn they taste good. The woman with more names than a Hanoverian stud? She doesn’t give a crap, but hey neither do we.