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Track employees try to hold down Eight Belles after she broke both front ankles.

Horse Racing Industry Reacts to Death of Eight Belles; Will Sturdier Horses Be Bred ?

May 17, 2008 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
By Denis Cummings
The death of Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles angered critics who say horse racing is barbaric and inhumane.  Even racing insiders acknowledged the need for reforms that could potentially prevent future deaths.  One breeder takes it upon himself to create sturdier racehorses.

30-Second Summary

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Eight Belles broke down after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby on May 3. She suffered fractures in both front legs and had to be euthanized on the track. It is believed to be the first fatal breakdown ever in the Kentucky Derby.

Her death is the third in a major race in the last three years. Two years ago, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro became a national icon after breaking down in the Preakness Stakes.

This latest tragedy in the sport of horse racing has engendered criticism and comparisons to barbaric sports like animal fighting.

Horse racing trainers and analysts are examining ways to improve horse safety, including the implementation of synthetic dirt tracks, a change in breeding philosophy and a ban on fillies racing against colts.

A seven-member Thoroughbred Safety Committee, headed by the son of the owner of the ill-fated Ruffian, has been established by the Jockey Club to examine equine health issues and produce recommendations on how the sport can improve.

However, many racing experts question whether effective reforms can be enacted without a single national governing body for horse racing.

Jesse Jackson, owner of 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, is scouting mares in Argentina and other countries that he hopes to breed in the U.S. to create sturdier racehorses.

Headline Link: Eight Belles euthanized; One Breeder Does His Part

Reactions: Vet baffled, trainer speaks, safety commitee formed

Opinion & Analysis: Is horse racing cruel? How can it be made safer?

Related Topic: Synthetic dirt

Historical Context: Death of a racehorse

Reference: Horse Racing and Kentucky Derby Web Guides

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