Patricia Nell Warren

LGBT Politics at the Breeders Cup

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | October 23, 2008 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement
Tags: Breeders Cup

First of all -- for those who think the BC is a race for those heterosexual humans that we're proud of being different than -- it's two days of world-championship horse racing coming up this weekend, Friday and Saturday. But the fierce politics that permeates Americans' lives has even flooded the Sport of Kings. The Onion just headlined "the first openly gay racehorse to compete on Sunday."

More about this momentous news after the jump.

It's a spoof, of course. There are no BC races on Sunday, and no horse named Ship's Captain is entered. But The Onion was picking up on for-real news stories about the sexual orientation of this and that stallion, notably Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem, who was not too interested in mares. The video is worth watching -- The Onion did a good job of nailing the reasons why athletes shouldn't have to put up with homophobia. And judging by remarks on bulletin boards across the country, a few people fell for the gag and went, "Wha?"

Meanwhile, the Breeders Cup is guilty of some phobia of its own. Femiphobia. This year the event went to two days, and they decided to polish off the filly-and-mare races on Friday -- leaving Saturday for the "really important races," namely the ones with mostly masculine horses entered. Good grief. Saturday is the traditional day for big stakes races to be run (relic of the days when the U.S. had blue laws and no racing was allowed on Sunday). So the Breeders Cup sends a message that the ladies are running in second-class events.

Is there no end to the crannies of American life where prejudice lurks? I wonder if there have been any complaints from politically sensitized fans.

All the more reason why I hope Precious Kitten beats the pants off the boy horses in the Breeders Cup Mile on Saturday. The handicappers give her a shot -- she's a speed horse, and she loves to run on grass. (Not many female horses can beat male horses one on one, for the same reason that human females don't even compete against males in track & field -- that difference in muscle strength.)

Well, bye. It's 5:30 a.m. and my friend Roberta and I are off to Santa Anita shortly, to have breakfast at Clockers and watch some of the works. But I intend to watch the races -- both days, of course -- from the comfort of my media room.

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And the US still has blue laws out here in Indiana, at least!

Why would they cancel the filly and mare race?

They didn't cancel the filly and mare races. They just scheduled them all for Friday, the "less important" day of the Cup.

True. We have horse racetracks, but they're not allowed to run horses on Sundays. Instead, they show televised races from elsewhere, I suppose.

Has a mare/filly ever won the Kentucky Derby or Breeders Cup, Patricia?

Today many tracks do run races on Sundays...but it used to be a big issue, especially in the Bible Belt, and many localities prohibited horse racing and other such events on the Sabbath.

This is an old issue. In the early 1600s, King James I of England stirred up a huge uproar among Anglican and Protestant conservatives when he decreed that it was OK to hold horse races on Sundays. He was a huge fan of racing and sports generally, and also pro-Catholic...and the Catholics usually didn't have any issue with sports on Sundays, since they didn't consider them "irreligious." Races and games were often associated with saints' feast days.

But the Reformation Protestants wanted to return to a strict interpretation of the Bible (sound familiar?), which included a strict observance of the Sabbath...meaning no work, no diversions, just church and prayer and a meditative religious mood.

Re your second question:

Only 38 fillies started in the Kentucky Derby and only three won: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988). This is why the fillies have their own Triple Crown.

Bil, Patricia answered the question re: fillies in the Derby. However, the Breeders Cup is following Churchill Downs' lead, in that the fillies race the Friday before the colts (the Kentucky Oaks). Be assured that the Oaks is nearly the event the Derby is, in any way, and is more popular among Louisvillians than the Derby itself - we leave Derby Day for the tourista.

I hope you enjoyed your day at the races, Patricia. If you're ever in Kentucky in spring or fall, you should join us at Keeneland.

Karen Collett | October 25, 2008 6:14 AM

The URL for the Onion video is slightly wrong; here is the corrected URL. (Cut-and-paste is your friend.)