Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mourning the Death of a Champion

It's the morning after the Breeders' Cup, but I am not celebrating.

For me, the magnificent triumps of the last two days have been washed away in a sea of grief for the tragic death of Ireland's gallant champion, George Washington (Ire), who was euthanized just minutes after he was pulled up at the end of the Breeders' Cup Classic, having suffered a catastrophic injury on a muddy quagmire of a racing surface to which he was unaccustomed and ill-suited.

There is a fine line between good sportsmanship and greed and hubris. In the case of "Gorgeous George," as he had been affectionately nicknamed by his appreciative fans, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that he lost his life in pursuit of his owners' desire to prove something.

When this talented colt proved less than fertile at stud last year, he was pulled out of retirement and brought back to the rigors of competition. And that is what led to his untimely, sickening demise, in front of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers. It was a terrible, undeserved death. In spite of the on-call veterinarians' hesitancy to blame the boggy track conditions for the injury, can there really be any doubt that the mucky surface caused turf-loving George Washington (Ire) to slip and take a series of missteps that ultimately proved fatal?

I am sure that trainer Aidan O'Brien, his staff, and everyone who nurtured George Washington (Ire) to greatness are devastated by his death. Yet I ultimately have to wonder why they put him in harm's way.

No comments: