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Patrick Hruby

Atlantic Sports Roundtable: The Kentucky Derby is decadent and depraved

Euthanized horses. Anorexic jockeys. And, of course, mint juleps. In this week's edition of the Atlantic online sports roundtable, we discuss why the Kentucky Derby is really decadent and depraved:

Hampton Stevens: ... media focus will likely center on Bob Baffert—a super-successful trainer coming back from a heart attack barely a month ago. But rooting for a wealthy trainer, or his very wealthy owner, isn't as much fun as rooting for athletes. In this sport, though, at least if you believe the New York Times, athletes are getting hurt and killed at appalling rates—much higher than at equivalent racetracks overseas, for instance. Not. Cool. It's one thing for jockeys to get hurt. It's awful, certainly, but at least those men and women choose to compete. Horses don't want to run until they snap a foreleg. They sure don't choose an instant on-track death because of it ...

Patrick Hruby: ... last year, former jockey Darrell Haire told ABC News that he kept his kids away from following him into the sport. With good reason. After all, horse racing isn't just hell on competitive equines; it's brutal on the people who ride them.... according to a 2009 report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, there were 26 jockey fatalities from 1992 to 2006, an average of 5.6 deaths per year—more fatalities than in NASCAR over the same time period (15), and a number the authors of the NIOSH study said was probably an underestimate ...

Jake Simpson: ... yes, the Derby is a horse racing event, and the sport is cruel to horses and riders alike, and it's nearly a 100-percent-white event in terms of consumers, and it's Decadent and Depraved... I get it. Taking potshots at the Kentucky Derby is one of the easiest things to do in all of social-mores-sportswriting (apologies to Hunter's ashes floating around in space, but it's true). A much harder task is explicating the intangibles that make the event a unique and strangely beautiful landmark of spring in America ... the event itself is one of the happiest scenes in sports, unless of course I was just buzzed for the whole day when I attended the '06 Derby ...

Read the full article at the Atlantic online