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Thread: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

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    Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    Big Brown wins Kentucky Derby; filly Eight Belles euthanized

    By RICHARD ROSENBLATT, AP Racing Writer Sun May 4, 11:32 AM ET

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Big Brown was pulling away from the field, accelerating with every powerful stride toward the finish line in the Kentucky Derby. The crowd of 157,770 was on its feet and cheering as the big, unbeaten, muscular bay crossed the line first, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of the filly Eight Belles.

    Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. was still celebrating, along with thousands of happy bettors, as Big Brown and the 19 other horses in Saturday's race galloped out around the first turn at Churchill Downs.

    It took a few minutes to sink in, but anyone watching those horses soon realized that one of them had fallen to the track.

    "It's the filly," someone whispered. She went down about a quarter mile past the finish line.

    In just a few minutes, the joy of the Derby and the promise of a new Triple Crown season were upended when Eight Belles was euthanized by injection on the track.

    She had broken both front ankles and could not be saved.

    "This horse showed you his heart," winning jockey Kent Desormeaux said, "and Eight Belles showed you her life for our enjoyment today. I'm deeply sympathetic to that team for their loss."

    Big Brown did everything his owner said he would do. An explosive finishing kick put away his rivals for his fourth consecutive victory.

    Eight Belles, meantime, was attempting to become the fourth filly to win the Derby. Her owners chose to keep her out of Friday's Kentucky Oaks so she could run with the boys in the Derby. And run she did.

    Big Brown's start from the outside post did little to hamper his charge when the field turned for home. Under the urging of Desormeaux, the 2-1 favorite cruised to an easy victory to become the seventh undefeated Derby winner. The last one was Barbaro in 2006.

    That wasn't the only reason thoughts of Barbaro were hard to ignore on this Derby Day.

    The breakdown brought back memories of the 2006 Preakness, where Barbaro shattered his right rear leg just after the start. The colt was euthanized months later, after developing laminitis from the catastrophic injuries.

    In two weeks, Big Brown will race in the Preakness as the only 3-year-old with a chance to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

    "We're ready to roll," Dutrow said.

    All week, Dutrow told the world he had the best horse in the field and the big bay colt justified every accolade tossed his way.

    "I can't describe the feeling that all of us have right now," he said.

    The colt became the first Derby winner since Regret in 1915 to have raced only three times previously. He is only the third in 60 years to win after racing in just two Derby preps Sunny's Halo in 1983 and Street Sense last year were the others.

    In addition, Big Brown became the second winner to start from the No. 20 post. The gelding Clyde Van Dusen did it in 1929.

    Big Brown covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.82 in front of the second-largest crowd in Derby history. He paid $6.80, $5 and $4.80.

    Eight Belles paid $10.60 and $6.40, and Denis of Cork, at odds of 27-1, returned $11.60.

    Dr. Larry Bramlage, the Derby's on-call veterinarian, said the filly's injuries were too severe to even attempt to move her off the track.

    "She didn't have a front leg to stand on to be splinted and hauled off in the ambulance, so she was euthanized," Bramlage said.

    Trainer Larry Jones paid tribute to his fallen filly saying, "She ran the race of her life."

    And he defended having her run against 19 colts in the Derby.

    "It wasn't that. It wasn't the distance. It wasn't a big bumping match for her. She never got touched," he said. "She passed all those questions ... with flying colors. The race was over, all we had to do was pull up, come back and be happy. It just didn't happen."

    Tale of Ekati was fourth, followed by Recapturetheglory, Colonel John, Anak Nakal, Pyro, Cowboy Cal, Z Fortune, Smooth Air, Visionaire, Court Vision, Z Humor, Cool Coal Man, Bob Black Jack, Gayego, Big Truck, Adriano and Monba.

    The colt earned $1,451,800 for the win and boosted his earnings to $2,114,500 for owners IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. Pompa, who named Big Brown in honor of United Parcel Service, a client of his trucking business, sold a 75 percent interest in the colt to IEAH for about $3 million after his first race.

    Desormeaux won the Derby for the third time, having won aboard Real Quiet in 1998 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000. Only three other riders have won more Eddie Arcaro, Bill Hartack and Bill Shoemaker.

    "It was smooth sailing all the way," Desormeaux said. "The horse was very comfortable."

    Big Brown was the third favorite to win in the past five years. Smarty Jones won in 2004 and Street Sense won last year.

    All eyes were on Big Brown at the start. Dutrow called his colt the fastest of all and he proved it when Desormeaux gunned him close the lead on the mad dash to the first turn. Desormeaux did a masterful job of keeping Big Brown free and clear of any traffic issues.

    As the field headed into the backstretch, Big Brown was in sixth place and waiting for Desormeaux's signal to make his move. It came around the far turn, and Big Brown took the lead at the top of the stretch and was never challenged to the wire.

    "I don't even know what we just did," Dutrow said. "I can't express my feelings, only that it was one of the most incredible feelings I ever had, and I can't wait to feel it again."
    Big Brown wins Kentucky Derby; filly Eight Belles euthanized - Yahoo! News

    It was just two years ago that Barbaro broke down at the Preakness. Now Eight Belles. Admittedly, I don't know much of anything about horse racing, but I have to wonder about a "sport" that involves the deaths of these animals. These are certainly not the only horses that this has happened to.
    I just found this article, which breaks my heart:
    USATODAY.com - Seven horses euthanized in Del Mar's opening week

    My question is this: is horse racing still a sport and are these losses acceptable? To me, the answer to both is NO. Obviously, if this many animals are dying, too much is being asked of their bodies. A while back HBO aired a documentary about the dangers of horse racing to both the horses and the riders. Apparently, the riders also endanger their lives by dieting to dangerously low weights (guidelines for racing require ridiculously light riders) to the point that they caused organ damage. Obviously, they're also in danger if the horse they're riding falls or breaks down.

    Like I said, I know next to nothing about horse racing, so maybe someone can enlighten me here. As an animal lover, I just can't see how these deaths are acceptable and I don't think the sport can be considered humane. It seems to be more about making money on the lives of the riders and their horses than it has to do with sport, although I guess you could argue that ALL sport is about making money. I'm at a loss here and just terribly sad to read of yet another beautiful horse being euthanized for a horse race.
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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    We were there it was a great day until the filly went down. Like any sport it has it's dangers. If you did an expose on football, gymnastics, track and field car racing even you would find it to have enormous injury reports. It is definately a huge sport! In Kentucky the town goes on Derby alert for about two weeks just for festivals for that one day. Not to mention the other days when the horses are racing during the season. The horses are trained and pampered and prepared for that ONE day. A horse can only race in the derby when it is three years old. The thing that makes it such a huge story is the emotional factor of it being a horse.
    It is a once in a life time chance really! The numbers financially are astounding! On the day of the race everything is done in cash. They have to have enough cash on hand to take the bets and pay out should the big pay out happen it is hundreds of millions of dollars they have there in cash on the day of the derby. We always joke it is like a new Oceans movie. It is truly the sport of kings and the pagentry and the excitement on Derby Day is amazing. I can say the city absolutely mourns when a horse is lost. I don't know any other sport that pays such homage to their fallen heroes or their champions for that matter. When Barbaro had to be put down the city went into great mourning. There is a statue to be placed for Barbaro at Church Hill downs. It doesn't happen as often as you might think and when it does it is HUGE and not trivial.

    One theory behind the horses breaking their legs is that in the US so many of the thoroughbreds are bread so specifically there may be starting to be a weakness in the gene lines that is leading to osteoperosis. Those horses weigh so much and it is all muscle and they are so strong but their ankles are so small it is really a weakness for them. Since horses stand almost all their lives if they are off their legs long it will kill them which is why you can't harness them if they suffer a break.

    I wouldn't judge the whole industry based on these two tragedies anymore than I would judge modeling on anorexic models, or gymnasts, football players who are paralized or skiiers or any other sport. But as to your question is it still a sport I would say a resounding yes! I would also say there is a chance that this year we may finally see a Triple Crown Winner in BIG BROWN. That horse was unbelievable. He is truly BIG and such a powerful animal. He made history yesterday when he won after starting in the outside position with a full race of 20. It is really hard to come from that far outside and win. What is amazing with the filly too is that she was a filly number one and she finished second. Fillie's almost never race in the derby. They usually race in the Oaks the day before, the derby runs for the roses and the oaks is strictly for fillies so it is Lillies for the fillies. This fillie was one that was strong enough and fast enough to race the boys.

    If you give me an email I will send you photos. We were on the finish line I got a shot of them crossing. The equine ambulances were great to protect the dignity of the Filly. The town is really mourning this great horse.

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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    The thing is, I've been doing more reading about this since I posted this thread and it isn't just two horses. We just heard about Barbaro and Eight Belles because of their accomplishments.

    I read the paper this afternoon. This was in Sports Sunday of the NY Times and pretty much sums up how I feel about horse racing:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/sp...+rhoden&st=nyt

    I agree with this writer - one death is too many. Unfortunately, it isn't just one death. At what point did it become acceptable for these animals to be used and thrown away? I'm sure the owners are mourning Eight Belles. While they're doing that, they should look in the mirror. I'm sorry, but I see nothing beautiful about this "sport." All I see is animal cruelty (and cruelty to the people who ride them in many cases) for profit.

    Not all that long ago, the Winter Olympics had downhill speed racing as an event. The skiers wore those special helmets and just took off down the hill - no slaloms or turns, just barreling full-speed down the hill. It's no longer an Olympic sport because of the deaths that occurred and those athletes voluntarily took place in the event.
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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    Actually I do follow horse racing a little bit. Those horses are bred for speed and while they need certain characteristics to help them run faster, they can't cut down on horse weight as the muscles are very important. That being said, the bone structure is being bred to the point that the leg bones are very fragile.

    Horses can be a tricky business as there are a lot of vet bills and problems with horses that other animals don't have. But I blame the breeders for what's happening with these horses breaking legs as they are purposely breeding horses with weaker leg bones and weaker bone structure overall to lighten the load when racing.

    Did you know that anorexia and bulemia actually started with jockeys? Today its considered more of a female disease, but it has its unfortunate roots with the racing world as jockeys were trying to stay small and light.

    I wonder how long it will be before UPS starts using Big Brown in their advertising. You know its going to happen.
    Last edited by MRD; 05-05-2008 at 05:52 AM.
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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    Would something like what the motor racing industry does work with horse racing, i.e. minimum safety standards? For example, if these leg bones are becoming problematic, some sort of minimum (as determined by veterinarians, measured by x-ray).

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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    Like any sport there are definately more injuries but again like any sport you hear mostly about the sensational ones. I realize the horses don't ask to be raced but like working herding dogs who live to work those horses were born, by breed, to run.

    I guess like any thing that has animals as it's focus it is a matter of opinion. Circus, zoo's etc. I don't mind it. I know how the animals are taken care of and they are loved. They aren't just thrown away. Yes, I realize everything has it's exception. I do think a standard wouldn't be bad in the bone density area. Jockeys don't have quite as much trouble anymore with anorexia with the weights and the standards.

    Big Brown was actually named for UPS it is the largest customer of the owner of the horse so he named it for them.

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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    My daughter and I were watching the race and rooting for Eight Belles because she was the only "girl horse" in the race and were so happy to see her place, only to both be crying minutes later when we found out that she died on the track. It was tramatizing and I'm not sure I'll have her watch another horse race soon (she's 7 1/2), but we talked about how animals die and sometimes it is more humane to finish them off then have her be in a "horse wheelchair" because both her front legs were broken.
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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    It just breaks my heart whenever a horse is lost, they are the most beautiful, magnificent animals. My cousin and her husband raise thoroughbreds, and the thing I've learned from them is that this is what the horses love to do. It's a sport for our entertainment, yes, but the horses are doing the one thing they love most.

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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    This is one of many reasons I hold horseracing anathema, along with pretty much any other "entertainment" that utilizes animals or, in fact, anyone who hasn't given informed consent to be used in such a way. Yes, there are injuries of all sorts in many other sports, but personally, I don't give much of a rat's behind if a being with the ability to reason and either give consent or say "are you freakin' kidding me? I'm not doing that", does something that causes catastrophic injury to themselves. For this reason, I have vastly more sympathy for Eight Belles than I do for Dale Earnhardt.
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    Re: Another Horse Breaks Down. Are These Acceptable Losses?

    Having owned and worked with horses for many years, I've been unfortunate enough to see things like this happen even when horses are just running and playing in the pasture. It's a fact that the species is inherently fragile--they also have problems like colic, founder, and so forth that can occur even from something as eating too much lush grass when they aren't used to it. The horse I learned to ride on was found one day out in the pasture with a broken rear leg--no humans involved. Apparently he had been running down a small slope and slipped in mud, and it just happened. We had another group of horses that were running and playing and one kicked up her rear feet and almost amputated her own babies leg. It's not common by any means, but it happens. Even horses that are never ridden are prone to a host of foot and leg problems that we have to watch out for, that can lead to the animal's untimely death.
    I think a lot of these articles and so forth are written by people who have probably only ever been around horses for maybe an hour or two rental trail ride, and or watching a race or two on tv. It's true that there are some irresponsible breeders and owners, but that's true for any kind of domestic animal, even livestock. It's just my opinion, but I disagree that the majority of horses are being bred with some kind of bone defect-- the breeders I know look for 'good bone' i.e. sturdy legs that won't go lame. There are folks that breed animals with known leg problems, and I think that is just a shame. I think it is also true that racing two and three year old horses isn't such a good idea, and I really wish that the big stakes races were for four and five year old (mature!) horses. The practice of racing younger ones is purely economic, as these animals aren't even at their peak performance years. The reasoning is that if the horse doesn't show promise at 2, then he can be taken out of the training program. Another thing that I think I a problem is that trainers trying to protest these valuable animals go overboard, and working them on soft surfaces doesn't build bone the way it should. I saw a study quite a few years back where some French trainers started their horses on gradually increasing distances on very hard surfaces, and the net result was that it did build much stronger bones, tendons, and so forth. I think this idea is worth looking into, but "tradition" keeps training practices on the old path.

    So many people seem to think that left to their own devices horses would never move faster than a walk, or that any inujries are strictly a result of the sport itself. I wish these people could spend a little time on a farm where they could see a bunch of horses doing what comes naturally. Horses that are healthy and happy are a joy to see running, bucking and kicking, and they do it even if no one 'forces' them to.

    I will back what Marleybone says--these horses do love to run, and actually will race around in the pasture or whatever, so I don't call for the elimination of horse racing--but I do think there could be some changes.

    Totally unrelated, but the best horses I ever rode had been raced before, and they were not crazy, afraid, or anything else when I got them. The exercise riders do walk, trot, and canter them every day--races only happen every couple of weeks. They aren't beginner horses for the kids to ride, but great for hunt seat show riding, barrel racing, trails or whatever. They surely are not animals that should be 'discarded'.
    Last edited by queenb; 05-05-2008 at 07:24 PM.
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