Saturday, May 3, 2008

Eight Belles - Derby Horse Euthanized on Track

AP/Brian Bohannon @ ESPN

AP/Charlie Riedel @ MSNBC

Very upsetting news.

Racehorse Eight Belles has just been "euthanized" on the track during the run of the Kentucky Derby, after having placed second in this most important of horse races.

The only filly to have raced the Derby in 9 years, Eight Belles crossed the finish then collapsed. The decision was made to put her down on the track after vets determined that her front ankles were broken.

These types of accidents happen on tracks; horses and dogs racing at great speeds, pushed beyond reasonable limits. Some are heart attacks, some collisions with other racers or equipment, some broken bones.

And all for money.

Well, there are lots of opinions pro and con for racing horses and greyhounds. I'll try to address those at a later date.

Jockey Gabriel Saenz was able to slide off the horse as she fell; he was uninjured.

Events like this are confusing to me. To watch any athlete perform while in his/her prime is truly like watching a work of art. For me, it makes racing rather an ethical struggle.

Read the New York Times blog The Rail for live-blogging and follow-up of the Derby, and for extensive discussion about Eight Belles, cruelty in the sport of horse racing, pro and con about horse racing, and links to important stories and opinions, as well as over 300 reader comments.


According to the AP story Filly Eight Belles breaks down after 2nd-place Derby finish:

"...the fracture in Eight Belles' left front ankle opened the skin, allowing contamination to set in. At least one of her sesamoid bones was broken, too.

"She didn't have a front leg to stand on to be splinted and hauled off in the ambulance, so she was immediately euthanized," he said. "In my years in racing, I have never seen this happen at the end of the race or during the race."

"Horses really tire. They are taking a lot of load on their skeleton because their muscles are fatigued. The difficult thing to explain with her is it's so far after the wire, and she was easing down like you'd like to see a horse slow down by that point. I don't have an explanation for it."

Click on the photo credits above to read the stories at ESPN and/or NBC Sports.

For links to more stories at NY Times, Washington Post, and others, read my May 4 follow-up post.


  1. I couldn't even watch anything to do with poor Eight Belles. I saw so much with Barbaro and it broke my heart. Just a sad, sad thing to happen.


  2. Maybe it's time we re-think the racing rules and guidelines and start thinking about what we are doing to these animals.

  3. This is so sad! It just goes to show that horse racing is a cruel sport. No animal should be forced to entertain us and then to add insult to injury, be put down when she can't race anymore. There was a great piece in the Times this morning that calls for a moral response to this - its time already to treat all animals with respect!

    Times piece:

    Thanks for writing about this story!


  4. I swore I would not watch the Derby and against my better judgment, had the TV on at the time of the race. Next time, I will have better resolve. Nothing could be more sickening. At the stable where I ride, there are many former racehorses - taken off the track before their legs were destroyed - and some have been retrained to be reliable school horses, and are given good care, love and appreciation.

  5. First we have horses who are bred for speed, which equals large chest and spindly legs. These animals are not racing for the thrill or the money. They race because they must. Jockies have a choice. the horse doesn't


Conversation appreciated. Ours is a big world, with big opinions; please be respectful.