Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Most people at one time or another in defining their state will say, “Only in ********!” In Kentucky, strange things happen that make the statement only too true…and sometimes hilarious.

For instance, the lead story on the front page of the “A” section above the fold of the 30 April Lexington Herald-Leader was the earth-shaking news-account that a horse had died (okay, euthanized)…actually a former racehorse. Of course, it was not just any racehorse but a legendary stud, as noted in the sub-head, that sired 130 (count ’em) stakes-winners. The horse, Dynaformer by name, is pictured in the front-page obituary, with the caption noting that his foals earned more than $105 million for their owners.

To have a mare mated to Dynaformer, an owner had to cough up $150,000 this year, but unfortunately the horse suffered an aortic valve rupture a while back and had to be retired at age 27. Considering just the 130 stakes-winners, Dynaformer had been well used by his owners but there’s no telling how many performances of a sexual nature he had accomplished since there were bound to be a lot more stakes-losers than -winners, not to mention a multitude of just ordinary-race-losers. One wonders if PETA knows about this, especially if too much equine sexual activity could cause such a physical malfunction.

The obit also took up one-third of page 2 and noted that Dynaformer had a surly temperament, sometimes playing havoc with his stall-wall…obviously the ruler of the barn. While the owners no doubt feel bad about the loss, such folks as stall-knockers, exercisers and other stable-hands might not feel the same remorse for a horse that ruled with an iron hoof, sometimes planted on an unsuspecting human derriere.

For Dynaformer there will be a memorial service, of course, preceded by a period when folks can pay their respects. All this is noted in the front-page account – time, place, the whole nine yards. Over on page 8 was an account concerning some 20 Christian churchgoers slaughtered in South Africa in an attack similar to previous attacks by an Islamic extremist group called Boko Haram. The folks in that collective obit were wasted by folks on motorcycles, not horses, so they were relegated to the page where few folks go.

Horseracing is a sport, of course, though the horses probably don’t know that; otherwise, they would have declared a day of mourning and maybe even a strike. But Kentucky is sometimes so hung-up on sports that nearly anything is believed possible, such as a university basketball coach who publicly describes his operation as a “one-and-done” proposition, meaning that his shtick is the recruiting of All-American high-school players and practically guaranteeing them that through the good auspices of the University of Kentucky and his unique ability they will make the National Basketball Association after laboring through classes (on a sometime basis, of course) for only one year. Unbelievably, this is true…and he’s about as good as his word.

The coach pulled in something more than $4.5 million in the current salary-cycle, probably six or seven times more than the UK president and ten times more than President Obama, but who’s counting anyway? The coach’s name is more familiar throughout Kentucky (everywhere east of Frankfort, the capital, anyway) than that of the governor. In the long ago there was a rule that freshmen players could not compete in actual games, just practice. There were actually juniors and seniors playing in those days but the old adage “follow the money” rules these days (TV), so sensational raw meat is always needed, the classroom being only incidental.

This makes the universities the minor league for the NBA, as they are for the National Football League, too, for which underclassmen also declare for the draft (just finished) in droves. However, no other basketball coach and certainly no football coaches promise athletes the “promised land” in just one year of suffering through remedial math and English, with maybe soccer 101 and caddying 101 thrown in. Only the very best guards can be abided at a measly 6-5, but the forwards and centers must come in at 6-9 or preferably much taller.

A mention of the governor brings up another sporting subject – gambling or, as the governor prefers, “gaming,” which sounds much more respectable. In this case, the Kentucky guv has tried mightily to install casinos at racetracks in order to “save” the sport, since it can’t stand on its own, and it’s no wonder when it takes $150,000 to manufacture a horse and then feed it 30 lbs. of hay a day, plus nutrients. Of course, the horse may never win a race but may at least become a tax write-off account stud-deficiencies.

Well…the guv may have a point. A loser at the two-dollar (or more) window might make up his losses at blackjack or the slots, and vice versa. Both racing and casinos are sport-operations so why shouldn’t the sky be the limit? Maybe a cock-fighting pit (also a Kentucky sport) could also be installed somewhere out behind the barns.

After all, what’s the difference between horse-doping (a common practice) that injures or kills the beasts and letting chickens kill each other…with the owners in both categories getting well? Chicken has always been table-fare and horsemeat is now also acceptable, so the slaughterhouse provides another market for exploiting the “sports.” This will not be the end for Dynaformer, however, since he’ll be buried in the Stallion Cemetery.


And so it goes.

Jim Clark

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