Oh Snap! Calvin Borel and I think Velasquez fighting in winner's circle! Yowza! Borel and Castellano! Borel is snorting mad!
Everyone's favorite jockey, three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel, with eyes bulging and a finger pointing, went after jockey Javier Castellano. Castellano responded with a punch that turned the winner's circle into a boxing ring until officials and Borel family members standing nearby pulled apart the jousting jockeys.
I hadn't seen something so seemingly out of normality for a particular sport since witnessing a figure-skating pair go down at the U.S. Nationals in Dallas and continue to finish their routine with the male half bleeding from a laceration he suffered that a quick tape job couldn't stanch.
I went to a horse race and a NASCAR race broke out.
It was unfortunate, however, that the action-packed moment overshadowed some developments on the track that could really generate the type of interest in horseracing that could even provide it some sustenance. Indeed, the fight was the aftermath of the first race, the Breeders' Cup Marathon, of the Breeders' Cup World Championships that is being held over two days. Eldaafer won the race. He was trained by 32-year-old Diane Alvarado, who became the fourth woman to win a Breeders' Cup race.
"Oh my God, I'm so proud of him," she said of her horse. "He's done everything right all year. This means everything to me. I can't even think of what I'm feeling right now."
Steele: If Zenyatta Loses, This Horse Might Be to 'Blame'
Breeders' Cup Results | Breeders' Cup Schedule, Post Times
A horse named More Than Real won the next race, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. She was trained by Todd Pletcher, and, more noteworthy, owned by one of our favorite ubiquitous food TV chefs, Bobby Flay.
Horse racing could use more doses of youth, estrogen and popular celebrity. It was Penny Tweedy who made the Secretariat story work as a movie. The filly Rachel Alexandra was last year's Horse of the Year, bringing out throngs of female fans who otherwise may not have cared.
This year's Horse of the Year should be the mare Zenyatta, no matter whether she winds down her career perfect in each of her 20 races after Saturday evening's Breeders' Cup Classic. Zenyatta's kept the interest of the new fans Rachel Alexandra captured and added another layer.
But what Borel v. Castellano I -- and hopefully only -- reminded of was how much horse racing needs to be vigilant in policing itself in order to avoid tragedies that make too many of us turn away.
The spark for the flare-up in the winner's circle won't be known for certain until after track officials do a thorough investigation, including talking to the competitors and reviewing the videotape. But it appeared upon immediate review that Castellano made an unwise and dangerous move off the rail that abruptly took away the lane from Romp, ridden by Martin Garcia.
Romp stumbled, almost turning sideways. Garcia slipped off his mount and appeared to be about to tumble to the dirt in the herd of horses before Borel, with no room to spare on A.U. Miner, nudged Garcia back up on Romp. It all happened in a second or two.
It all prompted Borel, the toast of Churchill and almost always-happy go lucky, to seek out Castellano angrily, finding him in the winner's circle and confronting him face to face. The next thing anyone knew, fists were flying and security was needed.
That was better than what probably was averted: potential tragedy. There is too much in horse racing.
Sadly, on the eve of this Breeders' Cup, a horse ridden by Garrett Gomez, Indy Bouquet, took a bad step on the far turn at Churchill and suffered a compound fracture in his front left leg. The horse was euthanized on the track after Gomez, a Hall of Fame jockey, fell from it as it broke down. Gomez survived after being carried by stretcher to an ambulance and taken to a local hospital, where X-rays determined he'd injured his shoulder but hadn't broken any bones. Gomez returned to Churchill on Friday and was atop More Than Real for Pletcher and Flay.
That's horse racing. There is no sport more dangerous. Barbaros happen more often than we want to know. How the sport allowed Life At Ten to run in the final race Friday night apparently woozy from Lasix, horse racing's sanctioned performance-enhancing drug, was beyond belief. The game can be deadly and dangerous, too, for its human athletes who suffer more injuries than in any other sport.
The Jockeys' Guild that represents riders earlier this year reported that 128 riders have been killed from injuries suffered on racetracks in the United States. Since 1991, when three jockeys were killed, an average of one jockey a year was killed up to this year. Then there are scores of riders, like Secretariat's famed jockey Ron Turcotte, who wind up crippled from injuries. The Guild reported than at least 60 riders receive funds from the sport's Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund to live with brain or spinal-cord injuries they've suffered. Imagine the outcry about the NFL if the big hits it's begun cracking down on were resulting in a death a season.
I don't condone fighting in any sport and understand that had what happened Friday occurred on an NBA court rather than a racetrack, the sport would be dismissed in some circles as out of control and its combatants would be dismissed with the euphemism thug. But I think Borel was upholding on-court safety in his life-and-death sport, and he did so this one time emotionally and forcefully.
Borel's act, for which he apologized, wasn't just another cheap attempt to attract eyeballs.