As almost everyone knows today was the running of the Kentucky Derby. Some may have even seen the race and it's energizing end. However, just after the race one of the horses suffered an unrecoverable injury and was euthanized. The filly Eight Belles who came in second in the race, only the 5th filly in history to ever finish in the top, was galloping out and suffered fractures to both her front ankles. She was euthanized on the track, the first time ever in the 134 year history of the race. Those on-hand were at a loss to explain exactly what happened and why and that included the track vet.
I didn't watch the running of the Derby, I was packing for my trip, but when I heard the news I turned on ESPN who showed the full race as well as Eight Belles going down. First, I have to say she was one heck of a horse. She came from the middle of the pack to place second, 3 full lengths in front of the 3rd place horse. She was the only girl in the race against 19 boys. She wasn't out of her league, she could have run that race easily. So, the question is why?
There are a number of things that can be done to make racing a safer sport for the horses, but in an industry hesitant to change those changes are coming too slowly. While plans are underway to begin changing track surfaces to make them safer for the horses, they have been delayed. Could a surface change have helped this filly? I don't have that answer. I do know it couldn't have hurt. The track vet says that the injuries could have started out as a microbreak that expanded. That says surface might have helped. I have to say from watching the race a few times, that she didn't look in pain at all during the race. She was running full out with no hesitation and never slowed down. Changing the age of racing would help insure that bones and joints are mature enough to tolerate the rigors of racing. Again, I don't know if that would have saved Eight Belles, but it darn sure would have lessened the chance of an injury like the ones she sustained. BTW, this was the second tragedy in two days, yesterday a colt, Chelokee, slipped on the sloppy (muddy) track and suffered a fracture similar to that suffered by Barbaro at the Preakness. Chelokee has been given a 50/50 chance to survive. Chelokee's prognosis is similar to that given to Barbaro and he also had the same trainer.
No matter how you feel about horse racing as a sport, we can and should all mourn the passing of such a record setting filly with so much potential. It is a tragic ending to a day that is supposed to be happy and joyful for those who love racing and for the horses who love to run.
The only decent people I ever saw at the racecourse were horses. James Joyce