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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Kentucky Derby Tragedy

Today was the first time in YEARS that I missed the Derby. I'm a HUGE fan of horseracing.

So I just went to find out the results of the race, which is never the same as watching it happen in front of your eyes.

The good news: a colt with Minnesota connections won the Derby by several lengthy...he ran a great race.

The tragic news: Eight Belles, the first filly to run in the Derby since 1999 finished second...and then, inexplicably went down with two broken ankles and was euthanized right there on the track. There was no way to save her.

Thoroughbreds give everything they have when they race, but such an event is just a freak thing; typically, if they break something, it's when they are expending the greatest amount of power. A few years ago I was doing research for my book and was at the local track, speaking to the ractrackers there. One of the jockeys told me that he'd been aboard a horse that broke her back as they exploded from the gate. If you remember Barbaro, he broke down just after he broke from the gate (for the second time). Eight Belles, had finished the race, was slowing...and then went down.

It doesn't make sense. It's completely tragic.

My heart just goes out to her owners, to the jockey aboard...people put their heart and souls into their champions, and this was one promising filly.


Ray from MN said...

I didn't see the race. But I did hear some commentary before the race.

Big Brown, the winner, was only in his fourth race, ever. And he's a three year old.

The commentary was something to the effect that because of breeding and "chemistry", horses are a lot more fragile these days than they used to be.

Twenty years or more ago, horses would race almost every week before the Kentucky Derby and would develop quite a history.

Apparently, these days, horses rarely race more than once every three weeks.

And they get put out to stud or breeding almost immediately if their Triple Crown performances merit it. Or get sent to Paris for Steak Cheval!

I guess horse breeders are like venture capitalists. "What did you do for me lately?"

I'd bet that's not the way they do it in Europe or the Middle East.

Adoro te Devote said...

Ray ~ Well, yes and no. There are some genetic issues that arise whenever breeders focus too much on a particular trait. And there is a lot of regulation in the industry as far as what's allowed. Not all thoroughbreds, for example, are allowed to be registered. (Same goes for greyhounds).

And in the past, they did race several times....and it wore them out. Sure, horses would win and lose..someone has to. But at what cost? They have learned over time not to overextend their horses, finding that a longer rest in between races, spending mroe time in training, etc., gets better results and they don't destroy their animals.

Oh, and in Europe and the MIddle's worse. They're ALL ABOUT THE MONEY and in fact, the Sheiks OWN racing throughout the world. America is a very sentimental country, and we treat our champions well. For example...Ferdinand was set to stud, when his fees fell off, he stood stud in Japan...and they sent him to the glue factory. Look up Ferdinand's story...there was a huge outcry in America when that news came to light.

There are organizations...even a local one, that works to re-train retired racers, and those horses do very well in other events such as jumping or showing.

As far as getting put out to makes sense to do that. It costs huge money to continue racing, and once they win one of those races, their future is pretty much set. Not all of them retire, but most do these days. Shorter racing career, more time for breeding, and that's where the money is. But some go on to continue for awhile and do amazing things.

Oh, by the way, ALL the Triple Crown horses are 3-year-olds. It's specifically a Grade 1 Stakes race for three year olds.

There are also "juvenile" races for 2-year-olds, and some of them are prep races for the Derby.

Some of the reason they are raced less now is because of the fact they are not fully developed. Why wear out a champion before he can qualify for the Derby? They SHOULD race no more than once or twice per quarter, MAX. And even that might be too much.

Melody said...

I was sorry to hear about Eight Bells. I missed the race, too. It's so sad that there is nothing they can do for a horse with that type of injury.

Ray from MN said...

I've wondered why the put horses down so quickly. I suppose mares aren't nearly as valuable as studs, but still there must be some value.

The genes are still the same. Can't they make artificial legs for horses? They might have to confine them for the period of time it would take the bones to set? And two breaks certainly is a much bigger problem than only one.

Or "wheelchairs?"

Just wondering.

Adoro te Devote said...

Well, actually, Mares are EXTREMELY valuable...after all, they are part of the bloodline! One does not breed a stud to a claimer with no name!

As far as what can be done....Google "Barbaro" and look into what they did for him. He had only ONE very broken leg and they still lost him. I think that his treatment and defeat gives the best explanatin for why Eight Belles could not be saved.

They can't make wheelchairs for horses, or crutched, or any more than limited splints.

Christina said...

I saw this race, it was a good race and it was sad that it ended that way. My sister was especially hoping the filly would win and took it hard.

I wish they could find some cause for the breaks, so these people who are complaining about the race wouldn't be able to.

On a lighter note, you can watch the race on the derby website (it's actually better than what was shown on TV). It's too bad though that they don't have the previous races that were ran that day. The one two before the Derby was a really exciting one.