Derby Dark Side

I watched the Kentucky Derby on Saturday and was shocked when second place finisher Eight Belles had to be euthanized after she broke both of her front ankles. Here is an excerpt from Fox that sums up my feelings:
If Big Brown had broken his ankles after winning, he would have been the biggest story in America this morning. There would be many calls to rethink the sport of horse racing. There would be a national conversation about whether horse racing is a worthy sporting endeavor or unfit for a civilized society.

If a horse had broken his ankles after finishing last, it would have been one paragraph in newspaper stories — a footnote. Fans would not have paid much attention, because it would be easy to separate the death from the reason we watch the Kentucky Derby — to see who wins.

But when the second-place finisher breaks down and must be euthanized on the track, it becomes a nasty little thought that you can't get out of your head. You might just find yourself blocking it out and concentrating on the winner, but that will only bring guilt.

Why? Why do we put racehorses at risk for our own amusement? Where do we draw the line?
I felt very sad about Eight Belles death and have a new question mark in my head about this "sport". What do you think?


  1. I've always liked horseracing but this did make me rethink it. It seems cruel to put animals through that. I to busy Sat. and forgot to watch the Derby and now am glad I didn't watch it. I can't handle that kind of thing.

    I'm also not sure why when we've come so far in medicine that something couldn't have been done for Eight Bells.

  2. Chuck writes:
    What has changed? Have they added stuff (that's a technical term) to the track that is fatally hard on horse legs? Or has the breeding for superior horses caused a break-down in the density and thickness of bone? It seems that horse racing of one form or another (e.g., movie "Ben Hur") has been around since ancient times. And from my youth I do not recall these kinds of fatal injuries to horses; although I may have been blissfully unaware, until Barbaro lost his final race.

  3. I watch one horse race a year, the Kentucky Derby. Thoroughbreds are beautiful. But, they are freaks. They would never exist or survive in nature.

    There's speculation about whether the recent race of injuries is caused by overbreeding, the track surface (which I don't think has changed) or other causes. I think the breeders need to take more responsibility to ensure they are breeding healthy horses rather than just fast ones. But, with the temptation of money out there, rules would have to be set in place to ensure they are breeding healthy horses.

    I was deeply saddened by the loss of Eight Belles. The good news is with it happening in such a high profile race, it will draw attention to the problem, especially coming so soon after the loss of Barbaro.



I love to get comments and usually respond. So come back to see my reply. You can click here to see my comment policy.