The death of Eight Belles after she came in second in the Kentucky Derby and of two horses at an earlier three-day event in April has been a one-two punch to Kentucky's horsebreeding industry. The sight of injured and dying horses traumatize fans and hurt the image of Kentucky's signature industry.
"We are hearing from a very large number of people today saying that they can't watch it," said Keith Dane, director of equine protection at the Humane Society of the United States. "Everyone is concerned and everyone wants change."
The Derby, where Eight Belles was euthanized after breaking both front ankles, and the Rolex Three-Day Event, where two horses had to be put down, draw huge crowds — 157,000 for the Derby and 100,000 for the Rolex — and are broadcast to a wide television audience as well. Coming just two years after Barbaro's well-documented breakdown and eventual euthanasia, the deaths opened the industry up to a barrage of criticism from sports columnists and newscasters.
Some of the problems experts point to include the overbreeding of thoroughbreds, the use of drugs and track surfaces in racing, and the difficulty of obstacles, excessive speed and proper training in eventing.
Read the full story at Kentucky.com.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority said on Monday that it will investigate the Eight Belles tragedy but that it plans no changes at this time in training, racing surfaces, numbers of races or the use of whips. Here's the link to that story.