Happy 4th of July: Celebrate Independence, Embrace Freedom, & Be Proud To Be a Horse Person

(Photos by Gene McLean)

(Photos by Holly M. Smith)

Thursday is the 4th of July. The day we set aside to celebrate the birth of a nation and our independence from tyranny, injustice, heavy-handed laws and coercion of government.

Hope that we don’t have to do that again, sometime in the future.

Hope that we can right our own ship in time, and restore hope, faith and love. Obviously, the greatest of these is love.

Hope that we can leave this world as it was given to us; and this country strong and stern as it was built to be from its’ founding fathers (and mothers).

Hope that our children, and grand-children, and their grand-children will have a place they can call home just as proudly as our grand parents did, and their grand-parents before them.

And, despite the plague of modern-day locust that are hell-bent on destroying our way of life; dismantling the things that we believe in most; and collapsing both our country and our dreams?

Here’s hoping that they fail.

Miserably.

Here’s hoping that we not only survive and sustain, but splash into the night as bold and bright as the fireworks that we will sit and watch on Thursday night.

Here’s hoping that we win.

It was not easy for our forefathers (and mothers). It took courage to come to this land. It took more courage to turn this land into the greatest in the world. And, it will not be easy for our children and their children’s children either. It, too, will take courage.

But this place we call the United States of America is worth fighting for, and our freedoms are worth protecting, sustaining, enhancing, persevering.

Oh, we have made our mistakes along the way. We haven’t always taken the right paths, or made the right choices. We haven’t always treated people “like we want to be treated.” And, we have to pay for those mistakes; make amends; and make sure we never make those mistakes again.

Yet, I believe that we have the ability to not only do that, and not only make this country a better place for all; I believe we have the ability to do that for this troubled world that seems so destined to fuss, fight, gouge and gore.

The same applies to our world of horse breeding, horse raising, horse training, and horse racing. Most of all, though, horse loving, horse caring, horse sustaining.

(I bet you wondered how I may turn this into an “industry” post. Right?)

We, too, have our locust. We, too, have our enemies. We, too, have forces that want to destroy us and our way of life. They want to take away our land. They want to crush our lives and livelihoods. They want to crush Kentucky, and what we have stood for over the past 150 years and more, dating all the way back to the Civil War, and are known throughout the world as the very best.

They want to crush the horse industry. Today. Tomorrow. Forever.

You have seen them come out of the woods, like wolves in the night, and attack the weak and most vulnerable.

There is the disgusting tactics of PETA. We have seen what that organization is capable of doing. There is nothing that those people wouldn’t do to discredit Kentucky’s most prized and cherished signature industry. Absolutely nothing. They will lie. They will cheat. They will disgust. They will wear hidden cameras, and then cut, splice, and edit the video to create an image they know will shock and sicken. They will ruin lives to perpetuate a lie. They are locust.

There is the disgusting tactics of many in the press. We have seen evidence of that in the “Louisville Courier-Journal”  this very week. We can’t simply “write them off” as misguided, or misinformed. The truth is? They do not wanted to be informed. The mission is to misinform. They want to misguide. They want to create havoc and chaos. It’s their intent. Facts do not matter. Fairness has no place. Churchill Downs just concluded one of the safest race meets in history. That story was buried. Those facts sunk to the bottom. Instead, the Louisville newspaper runs a story bashing the industry’s and God’s very own racing surfaces — dirt and grass. It is pure “seek and destroy” tactics. And, there is little doubt that destruction is what many of them want, too.  Some are locust.

There are the disgusting tactics of some governmental officials, too. Like U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who announced — on the day before the Kentucky Derby this year — federal legislation aimed at destroying the credibility of the game. Just 4 years ago, Udall and U.S. Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA) introduced legislation to eliminate most wagering on horse racing. On June 20, U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) wrote a public letter demanding more investigations into the conduct of horse racing. Why anyone in this industry thinks that this industry — our industry — should climb in bed with these rascals is beyond me. They can’t even get a balanced budget for our country, for God’s sake. But if given federal authority to regulate the horse industry? They will have the ability to oversee, enforce, and govern horse racing? Give me a break. Some are locust.

And, sadly, there are even demons within the industry and amongst us all. Cheaters who see only quick dollars and are willing to go after them by any means. Cheaters who need a quick fix as bad as a junkie needs a snort. Cheaters who don’t care about the industry, its’ reputation, tomorrow. Cheaters who only care about themselves and today. Cheaters who need to be identified. Cheaters who need to be benched — forever. Locust.

It will take courage to forge ahead. Just as our forefathers did once upon a time. It will take courage to overcome the locust and eradicate the problems. Just as we have done before. It will take courage, leadership. We can compromise on some issues, but never on principal and commitment. It will take courage to fix and fend off. And, it will take courage to include all segments of the industry. All. Not just those that sit in the luxury boxes. Not just that muck the stalls. All.

But it is worth it.

Our heritage. Our country. Our sport. And, our way of life.

They are worth it.

On Thursday, we will celebrate the greatest country on Earth.

On Thursday, we should, too, celebrate the greatest sport on Earth, and be proud of who we are; what we do; and how we do it.

And, we should make a pledge — together — to protect and prosper.

Both of them.

Country and horse.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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