Eight Belles — racing 10 years on

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


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

Blood will spurt from horse’s noses if you ban Lasix they cry in Kentucky

Close up of horse's nose. Image Paul McRae.

Close up of horse's nose.  Image Paul McRae.

I read some of the statements people in the American horse racing industry make and seriously wonder if there are any sane, rational individuals left among them.

ROGER ALFORD writing for the Associated Press reports:

    FRANKFORT, Ky. — Thoroughbred owners and trainers voiced dire warnings Tuesday about the potential of blood spurting from horses’ noses if the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission institutes a race-day ban on the anti-bleeding drug furosemide.

    Several veterinarians voiced similar warnings in urging the racing panel not to impose a ban that they said would endanger not just horses but also jockeys who could be hurt if the animals suffer pulmonary hemorrhages and collapse during races.

    “What will the public perception be when horses pull up in front of the grandstand with blood running out of their nostrils, down their chests and legs and the jockeys’ silks covered in blood? This will make the betting public sick to their stomachs,” horse owner Billy Ashabraner said.

    The worries were aired during a public hearing of the racing commission held in Frankfort on Tuesday, a week ahead of a June 13 meeting in which the panel will consider a proposal to phase out the use of the anti-bleeding drug on certain race days.

Read more here >>

How is it that in almost every racing jurisdiction around the world, Lasix is banned and they don’t have this problem? Because “chemical horses produce chemical babies” and the US racing industry has ruined the breed? Small wonder other countries are shying away from buying US Thoroughbreds. Of course that is only the beginning of the deeply layered problems of horse racing American style.

Read more here >>

Casner: US racing ‘out of step’ on medication

Cross-posted from the Paulick Report

Written by RAY PAULICK

Bill Casner has been around the racetrack a long time, as an exercise rider, a trainer, and more recently as co-owner and co-breeder of a Dubai World Cup and a Kentucky Derby winner. He’s seen the rising tide of permissive therapeutic medications, and the problems he believes they have created for the sport and business of Thoroughbred racing and breeding.

“It is time to ‘just say no,'” Casner wrote in an editorial published this week by Thoroughbred Times.

Casner, who sold his interest in WinStar Farm last year, is the latest Thoroughbred owner and breeder to endorse the phase-out of all race-day medications, a recommendation made by the outgoing and incoming chairmen of the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

He argues that the use of anti-bleeder medication furosemide has caused horses to race less frequently because of its dehydrating effect as a diuretic. Another consequence, he said, is the “toll it takes on bone with its increase in renal calcium excretion,” citing a 2006 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

“The science speaks for itself,” Casner wrote, “yet the naysayers will tell you that administering ‘therapeutic’ racing medications is the ‘humane’ thing to do. Salix and Bute are putting a metabolic insult on our horses that is unacceptable.

“We are an addicted industry. We are addicted to our drugs and medications and have deluded ourselves into thinking that we are doing the right thing for the horse.

“Science tells us different.” Read full post >>

Jane Allin is analyzing the use of drugs in horse racing. The first four parts of her series can be read on our website.