The Kentucky Derby is upon us. I write this on Derby Day. I’m thinking of jockey Rosie Napravnik, the weather, and the controversies surrounding the sport of horse racing. Images from my visits to Saratoga Race Track fill my head.
Horse racing is beautiful. I love to see these gorgeous animals as they run. They deserve the best treatment. I fear a significant some are not treated as they should be. People ask me if I ever write about sports. In spite of the fact that one of my best-loved books is Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand, I have to say, “not often.”
Today, in honor of Derby Day, here are five books for readers to consider reading or rereading.
1. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. (2002)
2. Secretariat by William Nack (2010)
3. Horse Heaven (novel), by Jane Smiley (2001)
4. The Horses of Oak Valley Ranch Series, (novels for fifth graders and older) by Jane Smiley
5. 150 Years of Racing In Saratoga: Little-Known Stories and Facts from America’s Most Historic Racing City. By Allen Carter and Mike Kane (2013)
To my surprise, I was unable to find books about the current state of the horse racing industry, not did I find any in-depth magazine pieces. Either they must be there and I didn’t look hard enough, or sports writers need to seriously consider the subject. What books are published suggest readers are more interested in betting and winning than in the treatment of horses. Scandal and undercover investigations by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are ongoing. There’s plenty of information and controversy out there.
I admit images of these marvelously beautiful animals in pre-race parade and pounding down the track are tarnished, even blackened, by those who believe multiple painful drugs are necessary to win races.
When will we see real drug reform in horse racing?
At present, I don’t find an answer to this question.
I flip the coin to the hopeful side. I hope your favorite Derby contender has a good run. I hope sports-writers will continue to keep the important issues of the sport before the public. I hope more horse owners and trainers will put animal well-being before winning. I, for one, would be more likely to wager or attend races if I believed my favorite jockey was on a well-cared-for horse rather than one who might been mistreated.
If you have ever visited a race track, watched a horse race on television or read Seabiscuit, please comment. And if you shun this sport, tell us why.