May 7, 2008  

Death at the Kentucky Derby



  At Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, second-place winner Eight Belles, pushed beyond her limits, shattered both front ankles. She was euthanized on the track.

The next day, her trainer raced three more horses, remarking, "back to business as usual."

An outpouring of criticism of racing by respected sports writers followed.

Eight Belles shatters both front ankles and collapses after crossing the finish line.
(Photo: Brian Bohannon/Associated Press)

  "Why do we keep giving thoroughbred horse racing a pass?" wrote William Rhoden, sports columnist for The New York Times.  "Why isn't there more pressure to put the sport of kings under the umbrella of animal cruelty?"

Interviewed on the Lehrer Report, he added: “The industry shows a "wanton disregard for the health of animals...and there is nothing you can do to change the essence of it.... Thoroughbred racing is a brutal sport."

Track personnel try to hold down Eight Belles. (Photo: Brian Bohannon/Associated Press)


Death: Eight Belles is euthanized.
(Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press)
  "Eight Belles' death was not a horse racing fluke," wrote Tom Weir and Reid Cherner in USA TODAY. " many other equine deaths are there every year that go unnoticed in a sport that's largely ignored on a day-to-day basis?"

Sally Jenkins in The Washington Post noted, "According to to several estimates, there are 1.5 career-ending breakdowns for every 1,000 racing starts in the United States. That's an average of two per day."

Thousands more die every year, either because they were not fast enough or because they succumbed to bleeding in the lungs or heart attacks.



Bleacher Report sportswriter Ed Berliner describes racing as "a spectator sport that needs to pass into the history books and join other barbaric and greedy spectator pastimes that employ animals for amusement. There is...little difference between horse racing and cock fights, bull fighting and dog racing." Racehorses, he writes, "are used for nothing more than making money by some who reside in a dark and wretched corner of society, knowing full well they can buy them, race them, abuse them, and kill them without a second thought." His article ends with the statement that racing "properly continues to lose fans, interest, and credibility. And would lose many more if people only wanted to know the truth."

Two-thousand years ago, the Romans ran their horses to death just like this at the Hippodromes in Caesarea and Beit She'an. Today, Israeli real-estate and tourist-industry developers are working hard to revive this sorry entertainment, expecting to make a financial killing. The exploited victims will be the same: innocent horses.


Campaign to prevent the establishment of racing in Israel
Learn more about racing
Racehorse slaughter
Campaign media update


Send your tax-deductible contributions to CHAI at
POB 3341, Alexandria, VA 22302, USA, or

donate through our website.


Eight Belles, a beautiful three-year-old filly, just before her final race.
(Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Yours for a more compassionate world,

Nina Natelson


Eight Belles just after her final race.
Video (NBC Sports)
Video (ABC News)


CHAI - Concern for Helping Animals in Israel
PO Box 3341, Alexandria, VA 22302

Phone: 703-658-9650