DAN: A Dark Day Day at the Derby
By Dan O'Donnell
Filly Eight Belles was the sentimental favorite of thousands of horse racing fans and many in the near-record crowd at Saturday's Kentucky Derby cheered wildly as she ran the race of her life to finish second to Big Brown. But that life was tragically cut short just minutes later, as she collapsed with two broken ankles.
***WARNING: This video may be disturbing to some viewers***
Video courtesy of NBC Sports.
I wrestled with whether to post this video for a long time, but it serves to remind us that horse racing is occasionally a deadly sport. There are approximately 1.5 breakdowns per 1,000 starts and while not every breakdown is fatal, many are.
Some will question why, in the words of Big Brown's jockey, "Eight Belles showed you her life for our enjoyment," and why she was made to, but that misses the point. This isn't horse fighting, and these animals aren't brutalized, they're lionized. While they are pushed to their physical limits, there is little inherent in championship racing that should upset animal activists.
In this sport of kings, a prize throroughbred lives like a king but unfortunately sometimes dies doing what it's been bred to do. It's unquestionably tragic, but it's also not a reason to question the legitimacy of the sport itself.