Horse in profile silhouetted against a night sky. Unattributed Google search image.

Eight Belles — racing 10 years on


The Kentucky Derby this Saturday marks the tenth anniversary of the catastrophic breakdown of Eight Belles. Racing with the boys, she crossed the wire 4 ¾ lengths behind Big Brown, finishing second – the first filly since 1999 to run in the Derby — only to collapse with two shattered ankles and be euthanized on the track.

Memories of Barbaro’s anguishing ordeal, fresh in the minds of racing fans and the death of another horse on Kentucky Oaks day, cast a pall over North America’s most celebrated racing event and raised questions about the safety of horse racing.

Immediately the racing industry responded with the notion that more uniform regulations regarding equine health standards and drug use should be a top priority.

Ten long years and what has improved? Nothing.

Year after year, the industry holds conference after conference claiming that they are moving towards improved safety standards. Sadly, the efforts of the few that do care and want change, are lost to the greed of the rest.

These innocent souls are sacrificed to casino profits, allowance races, graded and graded stakes races and when they fail, relegated to claiming races and the slaughterhouse. It is estimated that 20% of slaughtered horses in North America are thoroughbreds — some picked up by the meat man at the track and sold by unscrupulous trainers and owners after a bad race, without a hope of finding a home. Disposed as garbage. Just throw-away items.

In fact, it seems the opposite to what the racing industry claims has happened.

The transparency, if there ever was any, is gone.

The doping continues, the trainers and veterinarians are one step ahead of the newest drug testing, the records available about trainer infractions are incomplete where serious penalties are hidden from the public, statistics only report deaths if a horse dies during a race, and horses, despite what the industry claims, continue to die in record numbers, all hidden from the public’s view.

All of this is a cover up, blatant lies, to attempt to convince everyone that the industry is above board.

Horse racing is a cruel, predatory business. You bet, they die.


Eight Belles

“She ran with the heart of a locomotive, on champagne-glass ankles.” Blaming the breeders and investors, sports writer Sally Jenkins claimed,”thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis, and everyone now knows it.”

Thoroughbred Racehorses

“Our horses are sick. Our thoroughbreds are thoroughly inbred. They are locomotives sitting atop toothpicks. They are fragile and friable, designed to run but not to recover from running. And each time they break down or wear out, we chalk it up to an individual horse’s shortcomings, rather than the decades-long decline of the entire breeding industry”.  — Barry Petchesky (Deadspin)

Insightful Perspective

“What he liked about horse racing was the minimal investment and the high returns. He didn’t mind horses at all; they were easy on the eyes and exciting to watch.”

“The horse industry in general was a zero-waste proposition: this was one animal you could take from birth, exploit all its qualities – speed, strength, tractability – through breeding, racing, eventing, caléche or companion service, and then profit from its flesh when it had outlived its usefulness.”

From the Book, GROUND MANNERS, A NOVEL, by Cynthia D’Errico »

Related Reading

More by Jane Allin including the groundbreaking The Chemical Horse »

Racehorse Memorial Wall Worldwide, began 2005 »

Horse Racing Wrongs, began 2014 »

©The Horse Fund

5 thoughts on “Eight Belles — racing 10 years on”

  1. The combination of thin legs, larger body and youth is a recipe for disaster for the horses racing. It is a sad situation when a horse is made to work before the muscles and bones are fully developed ☹️


  2. Thanks for this great article Jane.
    Your absolutely right.
    Not much has changed – at least not for the racehorses.
    Their endless meetings are mostly lip service, and public fodder while racehorses continue to die for this vile business.
    Furthermore, this business is self-managed, with no neutral oversight, and their secret medical records protect he abuse, misinform the wagering public because dope affects the outcome of races.
    Then there is the secret medical records that mask their chronic issues exposing them to maiming and/or dying without anybody knowing about this except for the connections who choose to risk their life.
    It’s the secret medical records, the elimination of names of racehorses who die, the deliberate editing out of racehorses dropping in the dirt on Race Replays – all of this,collectively, ensures that racehorses die with little to no repercussions or prevention because they need their bones, and bodies to generate billions in wagering profits.
    Absolutely revolting!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Words can’t even express what I think of horse racing anymore. It is simply nothing short of BARBARIC. And the SCUM of the EARTH that profit off it – well I hope they all burn in hell.


  4. Thank you, Jane Allin for this excellent article about the truth of horseracing.
    Entirely agree, they have done absolutely NOTHING for the welfare of the racehorse despite the very public exposure of the cruel deaths of Eight Belles and Barbaro.
    And they had the audacity to declare that they would take action which equates to lip service and deceiving the public. Horseracing is a public industry, the horses are put on public display and are therefore come under public scrutiny.
    Deeds NOT words.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember Eights Belles as if it was yesterday. Nothing has changed, nor will it change, in regards to improving the safety of the horses. I turned against the industry years ago because I recognized the abuses inflicted upon the horses that I loved and I continue to applaud racing’s precipitous decline.


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