By: Joel Alderman
Horse racing is known as the Sport of Kings, and many Kings throughout history were known for their death sentences.
So it was not surprising that another unfortunate thoroughbred animal taking part in the “Sport of Kings” was unceremoniously destroyed only a few hours before American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
A four-year old colt, Helwan, suffered a broken left cannon bone in his left front foot, during a preliminary race called the Jaipur Invitational.
According to the New York Racing Association, after Helwan suffered the injury he was pulled out of the race with about three and a half furlongs to go. The jockey, Jose L. Ortiz, was more fortunate. He had jumped off the horse and walked away uninjured.
Helwan was put down right on the track but behind a screen blocking out the unpleasant scene, and not spoiling the festivities for many thousands in the growing crowd. Perhaps if some of those there had seen what was taking place, they would have been turned off so as not to want to go back another time. And that would be bad for business.
Helwan was bred in France and this was his first, last and, as it turned out, his only race in the United States.
For those among the over 90,000 in attendance, who had bet on American Pharoah, their day was a success. It was a lot more successful than that of the poor animal, who became another in a long list of horses who were bred to race and risk painful injury and death.
There was a movie 45 years ago, based on a novel written even before then, with the title “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” The answer is still “yes, they do shoot horses,” and they did it again at on Saturday.
The Belmont Stakes and the crowning of a Triple Crown Champion were great for racing fans. But the day was a dismal one for those who care about horses who are forced to compete to satisfy the passions, enjoyment and sometimes the greed of the betting public.
American Pharoah was the biggest winner on Saturday. Helwan was the biggest loser. American Pharoah won a race. Helwan lost his life.
Was it worth it?