Skip to comments.Tragic Derby ending for Eight Belles (Stress Analysis)
Posted on 05/03/2008 9:34:08 PM PDT by red flanker
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A quarter mile past the finish line in the Kentucky Derby, a gallant runner-up effort by the filly Eight Belles was forgotten in an instant.
In a freak accident that one experienced racetrack veterinarian said he had never seen before, the 3-year-old daughter of Unbridleds Song apparently snapped both of her front ankles simultaneously as she galloped out after the race, sending her crashing hard to the Churchill Downs dirt racetrack. She was euthanized moments later, after vets determined there was no chance to save her.
She had finished the race and was around the turn at the start of the backstretch and right near one of the outriders as they were watching, said Dr. Larry Bramlage, on-call veterinarian for the race. He saw both front ankles just collapse.
While such an injury on only one leg might have given her a fighting chance to survive, she didnt have a front leg to stand on to be splinted and hauled off in the ambulance, so she was immediately euthanized, Bramlage said.
He said such a double simultaneous break is an extremely rare occurrence.
In my years in racing, I have never seen this happen, he said. ... There was no possible way to save her.
Jockey Gabriel Saez, who was thrown when the filly went down, walked away, apparently uninjured.
Trainer Larry Jones, who a day earlier celebrated winning the Kentucky Oaks with Eight Belles stablemate, Proud Spell, went to his barn immediately after the accident and could not be reached for comment.
(Excerpt) Read more at wnky.net ...
This was just heart-breaking , and I had to turn off the TV as soon as I heard she was down - could not watch the award part.
I couldn’t watch all those people celebrating, knowing that one of the horses had died.
Sad topic, but others may have an answer.
I have never bet on a horse race, but something tells me there is more to this story regarding making political news and exerting political pressure no matter what the consequences to other humans and beasts.
Does anyone know if she had anything to do with the winning jockey getting thrown. I saw him get thrown but I couldn’t figure it out. I thought he was far from her when that happened.
Yes I thought I heard it was a reaction to the events...
No joke, my heart goes out to the animal and those who loved her. Earlier, over here, http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2010803/posts#46 , I’d read that Hitlery was backing this horse and actually thought, “Well THERE’S the kiss of death!”.
You mean the winner threw his rider becuase the philly fell dion. They did not collide?
They were all beautiful horses.
They def did not collide - I was watching the winning jockey when he got thrown and they actually commented that it was a bit embarrassing, but that was right before they mentioned or realized the filly was down and then I couldn’t stand to watch anymore - but they speculated BigB knew the other horse went down.
All race tracks should be required to install the new synthetic surfacing in place of dirt, it eliminates most of the broken legs that happen to so many horses on dirt tracks. After Polytrack was installed at Turfway Park in Florence KY catastrophic horse injuries dropped from an average of over 20 per racing season to 3 per season. It's expensive, but so are thoroughbred horses and they also feel pain.
Had the filly raced on dirt before? I know they mentioned at least one or more of the horses had only raced on synthetic tracks.
Thanks. I was in a restaurant and the TV was up on the wall behind me. I kept turning to see but they had the sound down.
I watched the rider get thrown.
I thought it odd the way the journalist with the antenna coming off the top of hat was interviewing the guy before he even got to the circle. You’d think they’d let him have some time to himself.
Eight bells is the end of the watch. The poor filly didn’t need Hillary’s support with such an ominous name.
Thoroughbreds are such noble and gallant animals that they deserve the best that we can give them IMHO, but then I'm just a softhearted old horse lover.
I don’t know anything much about horses except that they are gorgeous creatures. I have had opportunity to ride a couple horses so I do appreciate them and it is glorious to see them run.
But I wonder if in the breeding of these special breeds if there is something that is causing the bones to be weak..a sort of genetic thing that until some terrible event like this takes place, it goes unnoticed? Or could the horses be started racing too early in their development? Anyone out there know anything about this?
IT was such a sad event today and like others, I could not watch the rest of the race either.
I totally agree but I guess I don’t write the paychecks - seems the horses will run their hearts out as is their nature, so the least the sport could do is provide the safest surface...look at the amount of $ that exchanged hands today around the world over one race...
Is it possible the filly incurred stress fractures during the race that snapped immediately afterwards?
We had a guy that performed a bad parachute landing who tried to gut out. A couple days later, he was doing a 10 mile run with his company when the fibula in his leg snapped. X-rays showed stress fractures on the bone that were probably due to the bad landing.
I remember watching the wrester Sid Vicious making a move and landing on an odd angle and it looked like his ankle turned into rubber, course its no secret those TV wrestlers are pumped up on steroids, makes a person wonder what these athlete horses diet is.
This isn’t commonly known but horses legs are not fully developed until age three. The rest of their bodies don’t catch up until age seven. Nevertheless, the stress of Thoroughbred racing at age two, which is the age required at the Kentucky Derby, can result in the terrible tragedy that occurred Saturday.
As an example of athleticism in horses, Lippizaner’s perform incredible athletic feats - but they don’t start training until age seven and their training takes as long as seven to eight years. Many of these horses, all stallions, perform well into their twenties.
Hillary told an audience to bet on this horse because she (the horse) was a filly.
I swear its an omen, especially since a Clinton was in the area something dies.
My interpretation is that the Hildabeast will come in second, fall flat on her face and will be mercifully “Arkancided”.
one can dream...
Some bloodlines of thoroughbreds are definitely known to have weaker bones, more easily fractured.
There have been a few fillies who could compete against the colts... there has been at least one winner of the Kentucky Derby who was a filly (Regret, can't remember the year she won).
Some years back, there was another gallant filly, Ruffian, who also fractured a leg and had to be destroyed. I remember reading that her bloodlines were known to be full of horses with weak legs. Her bloodlines had Bold Ruler on both sides of the pedigree, IIRC, and he was known to pass on weak legs.
If you Google Ruffian's name and find a picture, you can see that she had very delicate-looking legs, even for a thoroughbred. She was also a relatively large filly.
Or could the horses be started racing too early in their development? Anyone out there know anything about this?
Some folks think they race them too young, which may be part of it. All thoroughbreds are considered to have the same birthday (not sure, but I think it's January 1), regardless of when they were actually born.
In this country, thoroughbreds commonly start racing as two-year-olds. But they're not actually full-grown until they're about four years old.
Actually, the Kentucky Derby, as well as the other races in the Triple Crown, is for three-year-old horses.
Friday’s WSJ had an article explaining the bloodline of the Kentucky Derby racehorses. Every horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby is a descendant of Native Dancer who raced in the early 50’s. The article questioned whether the sport has become too reliant on one set of genes.
Because of heavily muscular legs and a jerky running style Native Dancer and his descendants have trouble with their feet. And over-breeding has made the problem worse.
Barbaro was a great-great-great-grandson of Native Dancer.
IIRC, Native Dancer is not the only stallion to have passed on his delicate legs to his progeny. I think Bold Ruler was up there too. Horses who have had a bunch of breakdowns in their racing careers, all too often, are retired to stud and used to breed. IMO, this is risky, but then again, I am not a horse owner.
I think thoroughbreds are beautiful, but even if someone gave me an off-the-track retired thoroughbred for free, I'd be very cautious about the deal.
I'm no expert on horses... however, *if* I had the money to have any horse I wanted, I'd probably et one of the so-called "European warmblood" horses, or maybe a Friesian, as they seem to have better, stronger bones in their legs (among other reasons). They're big and strong enough to carry a big person, and they seem more durable to me than thoroughbreds.
If people have to bet on races, why can’t they bet on races that involve people? Why do horses and greyhounds have to be run? Just don’t bet on me if I ever enter a race. I’m not a very fast runner.
“Does anyone know if she had anything to do with the winning jockey getting thrown.”
No. Had nothing to do with it.
“Had the filly raced on dirt before?”
Yes, all nine of her previous races were on dirt.
I stand corrected.
When I was younger I remember that some race horse owners and trainers wouldn’t enter their horses into the Kentucky Derby because they would have to race them the previous year. Two year olds racing before their legs have matured adequately is dangerous. Eight Belles may have paid for this poorly thought-out practice with her life.
After all, she’s born to run, it is her instinct, so it is up to her owner and trainer to care enough about her well-being to prevent what happened. She may very well have had stress fractures before she even stepped out onto the track.
What a stupid sport.
I believe jockeys and car drivers are NOT athletes in same class as other true sports. They simply sit and steer. Even golfers exhibit FAR more athletic skills.
To glorify jockeys and drivers as athletes is an insult to real atheletes.
Just my .02
true but they have to start racing a year before to even get the chance.
Although I'm not into horse racing I have met a few jockies ... without exception they are in great physical condition, wiry, and very strong. As far as Grand Prix and NASCAR drivers are concerned they have to have great concentration and co-ordination in order to win.
If you go looking for good hard evidence that jockeys in American thoroughbred racing are important, you’ll be looking a long time. In harness racing the jock is very, very important. And in the UK the jock matters, though probably not as much as harness racing.
I’m looking in vain for the Beyer Big Brown ran yesterday. Anybody know?
Eight Belles after fall
Think bending stress, think psi’s..... too few square inches. Greater section required to prevent failure.
There is also a genetic component to these failures. The Friday Wall Street Journal had a story about the the inbreeding using the genetic stock of Native Dancer and how it has affected recent horses like Barbaro.
I was rather luke warm about even watching this race, but I did. I’m a long time horse owner, but not necessarily a racing aficionado. In past year I was able to get excited for the Triple Crown races, but after the heartbreak of Barbaro, and then the recent heartbreak of Frodo Baggins in the Rolex, I had just become a little too uneasy about watching equine sport at this level, where even the strongest are tested to the max and can fail.
“What’s wrong” lately might be a lot of things. From hanging out here, a horse forum, and a farrier forum, I see that a lot of the speculation has to do with perspective and background.
The horse forum discussion focuses on age. In pleasure and show horses, responsible trainers don’t train and ride horses before two, many prefer to wait until they are 3 or 4 to ride them with any kind of intensity, older than that before they are run hard or jumped. The horse matures from the ground up, and is not fully mature till around 5. And yet these racehorses are backed and started at 1 1/2 to race at 2. They have to earn their way to the Derby with winnings as 2 year olds.
Now... just because a horse is young doesn’t mean it should be bubble wrapped and prevented from moving... good exercise, including running and playing in big wide open spaces is vital to physical development, just as it is for our own children during the growing phase. Some work under saddle during the growing phase of a horse is arguably good for them, the movement and ‘stress’ to the structure while they are still growing encourages them to grow even stronger. The debate is always about how much is too much. The powers-that-be will never raise the age these horses are raised, so the question may be moot.
Now, in the horse forum, there are several members who own and breed race horses, or at least follow it closer than I do. Some of them argue that today’s top racehorses (the stallions anyway) are actually not run enough, and are akin to hothouse flowers. They are raced selectively and carefully to chock up enough careful wins to retire them to stud, and they are not tested nearly enough before passing on their genes to the next generation. “Big Brown” may be one of these in the making. He was raced only three times before yesterday, and if he goes on to win the TC, a smart investor would say he should be bubble wrapped and retired to stud before anything bad happens and spend the rest of his days making more thoroughbreds. In earlier years, he’d have been raced, and his racing performance would be his legacy. Oh he’d have been bred, but he’d have still had a day job, and it would only be those horses who were truly strong enough to hold up for the long term who would eventually retire to stud farms. I don’t know, but I’d guess an argument could be made that if you want a strong gene pool, you’d breed not from the fastest 3 year olds, but from the racehorses who are still running sound at 6 or 7 or beyond. Yes, you’ll break down a lot of horses, which is what they used to do. It was survival of the fittest.
So the argument is a lot of relatively weak genetics is having a trickle-down effect on the thoroughbred. TBs have notoriously weak feet. Ask any farrier. Thin, weak, brittle hoof walls. But with the advent of modern farriery, these horses can be fitted with shoes that allow them to perform anyway. Is the thin brittle structure of the feet only the most obvious indication of thin and brittle bones within? I don’t know. But a horse having bad feet these days does not prevent him from racing and breeding and passing on those genes either, the way it might have in the past.
Many TBs who don’t stay on the track certainly go on to successful careers as performance horses and jumpers. There’s nothing I’ve seen that indicates the mature TB does not have good strong bones. At least the genes that excel in jumping anyway...
At the farrier forum they believe that the advent of the tow grab shoe is contributing to breakdown. That the added traction increases stress to the limb. The inevitable sliding at each footfall without them greatly reduces the stress on the limb, and that slipping and sliding also would make them run more carefully... and slower.
Track surfaces also are often discussed, that the hard fast track of Churchill Downs is harder on horses than the newer rubber tracks. I’m sure it is. Good science needs to continue to be applied to the design of the surfaces to make sure they are as safe as they can be.... But that also would tend to allow inferior horses to run sound, contributing to that hot-house flower effect.
Anyway... after thinking about it and watching a lot of discussion, those are my thoughts, in no particular order.
ooops - now I see typos... “Age that they are raced”, and it should be “toe-grab shoes” not tow grab.
Greed is a sin.
I just bought an Arabian. I’m 160#, and my wife is 125...we don’t need a big horse. Leg strength has more to do with proportions than size - thoroughbreds are big horses with thin legs. Good for speed, but blinding speed isn’t all.
Can’t speak to race care drivers, but no jockey just sits and steers! I’ll take it you haven’t done much riding...
Jockeys are great athletes. Try being a 120 lb. man or woman, just trying to sit on a 1000lb. animal going 40 mph. Now try directing that animal or trying to pull him up if he doesn’t want to. Now try doing that in a field of five, with those other animals bumping in to you or running up behind you, etc. Now try doing that in a field of twenty.
That jockey’s life is on the line every minute.
You couldn’t be more wrong.
“If you go looking for good hard evidence that jockeys in American thoroughbred racing are important, youll be looking a long time.”
Right, just let the horses run around the circle in a pack. That sounds like a lot of fun. Shoot, half the horses wouldn’t even make the turn. They’d run until they got to the rail and jump it or just stop.
You know, the same folks that say TBs are over raced are probably the same ones claiming Big Brown couldn’t win because he hadn’t run enough.
I would contend that today’s TBs are under raced and absolutely agree with your point that young horses need to get out and play and bang around. Rough-house like kids do. Some of today’s horses are so valuable, they probably don’t do that enough.
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