Good Days and Bad Days

Good Days and Bad Days

Just like anything in life, horse racing has its good days and its bad days. It’s the good days that have made us fans of the sport, and it’s the good days that we live for. We anticipate them, enjoy them, and remember them long after they are gone, engraving the details in our minds and recalling them with passion and fondness. The day American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes to end a 37-year wait for the Triple Crown… the day Zenyatta won her record-breaking 17th straight race in the Vanity Handicap… the day Rachel Alexandra beat older males in the Woodward Stakes… these are the good days, and we cherish them when they arrive, recognize their significance, and cling to the memories for as long as we live.

Then there are the bad days, and sometimes, they can make us question why we love such an unpredictable sport. The bad days are never anticipated, and they are never enjoyed… but just like the good days, they are sadly remembered long after they’re gone.

Earlier today, the news broke that the wonderfully talented and exciting filly Lady Eli–with only six starts under her belt and a long, bright racing career in her future–had stepped on a nail following her victory in the Belmont Oaks on July 4th, and her injury had turned into the dreaded hoof disease laminitis. A little more than a week ago, Lady Eli was at the top of the racing world, exciting fans with her brilliant acceleration and taking their breath away with an easy victory. Now, her future in racing is shrouded in the unknown, and her life may be in danger.

One punch of bad news is hard enough, but as it turns out, this was just the opening of a one-two punch. Shortly after the news of Lady Eli’s injury made headlines, it was announced that the two-time Eclipse champion Main Sequence–himself a remarkably brilliant and talented horse–had suffered a tendon injury and would be retired.

No racing fan that had the good fortune to witness Main Sequence’s stunning turn-of-foot, or his uncanny knack at winning photo finishes, will ever forget what a great horse he was. The numbers show that he was a five-time graded stakes winner in the U.S., but the numbers can’t quantify the way that he would wait, and wait, and wait before launching his rally, causing his fans to sit, and fidget, and wait with bated breath until he finally made his move, sweeping past the field to win by a head, a neck, maybe three-quarters of a length… but never more.

And thus, in the span of a few minutes–a few minutes that seemed to last longer than ordinary minutes, ticking more slowly and dragging on as the news got worse and worse–an otherwise quiet Monday assumed the unmistakable aura of a bad day in horse racing.

But as they say, it is always darkest before the dawn, and the rubble of a bad day can provide the foundation for a good one. As we lament the misfortune that has befallen two of horse racing’s biggest stars, we can also look ahead to the potential brightness of the future. Lady Eli may be battling for her life, but so too were Paynter and Bal a Bali, two horses that beat the odds and overcame laminitis to resume their racing careers. And while Main Sequence has been retired, his injury is small and will in no way prevent him from living a long, happy life.

The world of horse racing may be dark right now, but there are rays of light on the horizon. Good days are ahead.

Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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