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A Stunning Victory and a Stunning Loss

May 8, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

Euphoria over Big Brown's scintillating win in the Kentucky Derby was tempered by the shocking breakdown and death of second-place finisher Eight Belles.

NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop reacted on Saturday, May 3:

"Everyone in racing is saddened by the loss of the brilliant filly Eight Belles. It took a truly breathtaking performance by Big Brown to deny her victory in the world's most prestigous race. She ran superbly and galloped out uneventfully before suffering a tragic accident.

"Our hearts go out to her connections, including owner Rick Porter, trainer Larry Jones and jockey Gabriel Saez."

Jockey Gabriel Saez issued a statement on Monday, May 5:

"I remain heartbroken over Eight Belles, and I want to let her many fans know that she never gave me the slightest indication before or during the race that there was anything bothering her. All I could sense under me was how eager she was to race. I was so proud of her performance, and of the opportunity to ride her in my first Kentucky Derby, all of which adds to my sadness. Riding right now at Delaware Park and being around the horses and other jockeys is good therapy for me, but I hope the media understands that I prefer not to conduct interviews at this time. Please respect my decision while I mourn my personal loss."

Today, May 8, Ogden Mills Phipps, the chairman of The Jockey Club, announced that the officers of The Jockey Club have commissioned a seven-member Thoroughbred Safety Committee. The committee is charged with reviewing every facet of equine health—including breeding practices, medication, the rules of racing, and track surfaces—and with recommending actions to improve the health and safety of Thoroughbreds.

In reaction to the news of the committee's formation, Waldrop issued the following statement:

"The Thoroughbred Safety Committee is a major step that will provide the examination of the horse welfare and safety issues so badly needed in the wake of recent catastrophic injuries. The NTRA supports the Committee’s work and plans to work closely with it to build support for the Committee’s recommendations with the many constituencies we represent. At the same time, we will redouble our efforts to promote Thoroughbred racing to core and target fans as the safe, responsible sport that it is. Now more than ever, no practice, policy or tradition is more important than those that best protect and promote the health of the Thoroughbred athlete."

Look for more information about the Thoroughbred Safety Committee in the June issue of The Racing Journal.