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Bred and Buttered

May 10, 2004
May 10, 2004

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May 10, 2004

Triple Crown
Departments

Bred and Buttered

I've seen pampered, spoiled and coddled athletes before, but the
ones I got stuck covering last week make me want to hurl.

This is an article from the May 10, 2004 issue Original Layout

Nobody ever tells them no. They get more strokes than an ICU.
Everything has to be perfect or they go triple Liza.

No, not the Lakers. Not the Yankees. Not even the Williams
sisters.

A group of athletes much worse. Thoroughbred racehorses.

At last Saturday's Kentucky Derby a horse named Smarty Jones made
$5.9 million for 124 seconds of work. Then he went back to his
Churchill Downs stall and got more hands laid on him than a $10
stripper: a warm soap-and-water sponge bath, a massage and a nice
helping of hot mash, all of it from grooms who generally live in
backstretch hovels with hot-and-cold-running cockroaches.

Across the way, in Barn 17, the colt Tapit had spent Derby week
eating organic carrots (sliced with a restaurant-grade veggie
chopper), breathing purified air and munching sod trucked in from
his home farm in Maryland. He slurped Guinness beer and
farm-fresh raw eggs. (Good grass and beer, followed by eggs?
Sounds like breakfast at Hunter S. Thompson's house.) He finished
ninth.

How's this for a sweet gig? Six, seven naps a day. Winters off.
Seven or eight races a year. No wonder the jockeys wanted to
strike this Derby. Compared to the horses, they're Malaysian shoe
stitchers.

Put it this way: How would you like to retire at four (about 24
in people years) to a life of having sex with the most fit
females in the country, three times a day? From February to June,
that's all you'd do. Then you'd take July off (phew!), and if
you're good, maybe fly to Australia and start again with the
sheilas down there until Christmas. Nobody this side of Wilt
turns that down.

And you don't even have to mess around with foreplay! A teasing
stallion takes care of that. He gets things heated up, as it
were, and when the mood is right, you waltz in like Elvis and
bada-bing! Nice work if you can get it.

One time the late Dayton Daily News columnist Si Burick was
watching Secretariat pull away to another easy win. "Jeez, I hate
Secretariat," he grumbled. "He's good-looking, still has all his
hair, and his whole sex life is in front of him."

With all that, you'd think the beasts would be happier than Ted
Kennedy trapped in the Sara Lee factory, right? Wrong.

"Be 15 minutes late with their meal, and by God, they let you
know," says Roland Nixon, who heads up the crew that works on
Derby entrant Friends Lake (finished 15th). "They'll kick the
walls, whinny, scratch the ground. Or if they smell the littlest
thing wrong in their feed, they'll cause a ruckus. Oh, yeah,
they're spoiled."

The track has a lip-reader, Barb Borden, whose job is to read the
I.D. number tattooed inside the upper lip of each thoroughbred
before every race. The way they stomp and jump when she comes
near them, you'd think Borden was trying to drag them to the glue
factory. "I get bit at least once a week," she says.

And you thought Neon Deion was vain? Even the rear ends on these
beasts get the Hollywood treatment. Some get their butts combed
in lovely designs. Others get their manes elaborately braided.
Their inner thighs are coated in cream to keep them from chafing.
You think anybody ever did that for John Kruk?

They have the best in critter comforts. They get acupuncture
treatments and chiropractic work, and sleep with magnetized
blankets. They fly in roomy, specially designed stalls in
customized 727s. Remember how much room you had on your last
flight, stuck between two BEFORE Subway sandwich models?

Some get their favorite bottled water flown in. Others have music
in their stalls. (Friends Lake prefers the Beach Boys.) Plus,
unlike many Americans, they get to choose whom they sleep with,
even if it's a dog or a goat or a Shetland pony. Imperialism
(third in the Derby) is so spoiled that his 21-year-old trainer,
Kristin Mulhall, sleeps in the stall with him. Now, I ask you,
what chance does her boyfriend have?

With everybody treating these horses like the King of Siam, you
figure they'll run through a wall for their trainer, right?
Please.

Last Friday supertrainer Bob Baffert discovered a tiny bump,
smaller than a dime, on the leg of his Derby entrant, Wimbledon.
The vets said it was a knot on the tendon, so Baffert pulled the
horse from the Derby and will rest him for the next--get this--90
days. Biggest race in the world, and a bump scratches him. Los
Angeles Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood played in a Super Bowl
with a broken leg!

And even when you get them to the starting gate, nothing says
they'll go in. "They all think they're the biggest horse in the
race," says Churchill Downs official starter Roger Nagle. "Hell,
it's no wonder. These trainers never make 'em do anything they
don't want to do. You pull on Smarty Jones and he just backs up!"

Of course, once he was in the gate last Saturday, Smarty Jones
didn't back up. He ran his perfect record to seven for seven. In
fact, he'll probably go on to win the Triple Crown, make more
money than ExxonMobil, retire immediately and wait for the
preheated babes to start showing up.

Jeez, I hate Smarty Jones.

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER

How's this for a sweet gig? Six, seven naps a day. Winters off.
Seven or eight races a year. Retire at four to a life of having
sex.

If you have a comment for Rick Reilly, send it to
reilly@siletters.com.