Off to the races

Ye-oww, please stop this thing! Posted by Hello

Millions will be tuned in today see if George Steinbrenner can buy the Kentucky Derby as he has past World Series with his New York Yankees. The George’s Bellamy Road is a 5-2 favorite as of this morning, according to the Kentucky Derby Web site. My money, speaking figuratively, is going on Afleet Alex, whose odds are 7-2.

Fewer folks will be watching the run from the cook pot this afternoon as the crawfish races gear up at the annual Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival in Louisiana. But I imagine the crowd witnessing this battle of mudbugs will be equally as enthused as those gathered at Churchill Downs in Louisville. I also forecast a lot of drinking going on at both places, though I could not predict which would have the drunker pool of spectators.

Although I am a native of Cajun Southeast Texas, I have never seen a crawfish race except in clips from television. A Cajun fellow named A.J. Judice, who ran a grocery store in Groves, Texas, was a big promoter of crawfish racing. Former Texas Gov. Preston Smith even named Judice a state “crawfish racing commissioner” in the 1960s. Judice probably did more for publicizing the “sport” in Texas than anyone. But I have yet to see an organized event in which these red crustaceans run, which I imagine would be for their lives because they probably would end up being boiled or in a dish of etouffee were they not to win.

Crawfish are pretty curious creatures. Scientist Christopher Mims writes on Zoogoer the Web site for the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., how fighting among the 10-legged wonders would be the spectator sport most likely to leave you dumbfounded were you able to figure out what the heck they were doing.

When two crayfish of about equal size meet, they rear up on their tails, spread their claws wide, whip each other with their long antennae, and engage in what is literally a pissing contest. Openings in their faces called nephropores eject streams of urine to communicate each individual’s status, health, and identity.
Then the fighting commences. Gripping each other with crushing pincers, both crustaceans churn the water with their tails in a show of strength. Limbs may be lost in the heat of combat; like geckos dropping their tails, crayfish autotomize a damaged or entrapped limb by closing a sphincter of muscle at its base, and then regenerate it.

Yet, they are delicious with red sauce. And, I wouldn’t have a problem eating up the racing team at Breaux Bridge. Not so for the field at Churchill Downs. Although some of the Cajuns’ long-lost cousins among our French friends across the Atlantic might not be so picky. Strange how that all works.

UPDATE: Giacamo, at 50-1 probably making a wagerer or two a millionaire, won the derby. Alex finished third. It’s a touching story about the little girl for whom Afleet Alex was named and how the horse itself faced hardship as a colt. But you can read that at a real news site. The important thing to realize here is how I am gloating over how Steinbrenner’s horse didn’t win. I kind of feel bad over such glee since the horse Bellamy Road did not choose to be hooked up with George. But then again, I doubt if the Yankees’ third baseman and zillionaire Alex Rodriguez had any choice being born into a life that would ultimately see him playing for George Steinbrenner. Not to mention his playing for a New York Yankees team starting out the season in last place in their division despite being the best money can buy. Strange how all that works.

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