'Moral Crisis' Plagues Horse Racing

Eight Belles, Barbaro indicative of huge hearts, too-fragile bodies
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 4, 2008 9:45 AM CDT
Kent Desormeaux, riding Big Brown (20), pulls ahead on the outside during the 134th Kentucky Derby yesterday.   (AP Photo/Joe Imel)
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(Newser) – NBC cut away from Eight Belles’ devastating breakdown and euthanasia at Churchill Downs yesterday, but we need to take a good hard look at the very real cost of the sport of kings, writes Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post. Eight Belles is a primetime example of the average two horses per day that suffer career-ending injuries on the track—the result of years of breeding for speed, without the requisite sturdiness.

“Thoroughbred racing is in a moral crisis, and everyone now knows it,” Jenkins writes. True, trainers care deeply about their horses, having worked to heal the sport in the past, and horses love to run. But unrealistic standards have led to powerful horses with frail skeletons, as “huge amounts of blood course through legs that are dainty,” Jenkins notes. “They need to be given the bodies to accommodate their hearts.”