Monday, May 5, 2008

Eight Belles' final moments

On Saturday afternoon, I wrote about initial reaction to television coverage of Eight Belles' death.

Very early Monday morning, I discussed more of the same, as well as PETA's demand for the suspension of Gabriel Saez's racing privileges, and accusations that he overly whips his horses.

This morning, I found an article that includes Saez's view of the incident:

Saez said he had felt something go wrong not too long after he crossed the finish line, 4 ¾ lengths behind Big Brown, the winner.

“I tried to get her to stop,” he said. “I tried to get her to stop, but she wouldn’t stop. She just dropped down.”

Eight Belles broke the cannon and sesamoid bones in both her lower front legs, which led to both of her ankles collapsing, said Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners....

Bramlage said Eight Belles appeared to be “galloping out fine.”

“It was something I wouldn’t have even considered would have happened,” he said. “I would have had no clue that anything was going wrong.”

Sporting News provides more detail:

She crossed the wire 4 3/4 lengths behind favorite Big Brown. Then, with the second-largest crowd in Derby history still whooping it up, Eight Belles collapsed with two broken front ankles....

"There was no way to save her. She couldn't stand," trainer Larry Jones said. "She ran an incredible race. She ran the race of her life."...

The field of 19 colts and the dark gray filly were galloping out around the first turn when Eight Belles suddenly went down on both front legs and jockey Gabriel Saez slid off.

"When we passed the wire I stood up," said a distraught Saez, a first-time Derby rider. "She started galloping funny. I tried to pull her up. That's when she went down."...

Eight Belles appeared to be galloping out normally around the first turn and was headed into the start of the backstretch when she dropped without warning....

Bramlage said the fracture in Eight Belles' left front ankle opened the skin, allowing contamination to set in. At least one of her sesamoid bones was broken, too.

"She didn't have a front leg to stand on to be splinted and hauled off in the ambulance, so she was immediately euthanized," he said. "In my years in racing, I have never seen this happen at the end of the race or during the race."

Bramlage was hard-pressed to make sense of yet another breakdown that reminded fans of Barbaro's horrific injury two years ago in the Preakness.

"The difficult thing to explain with her is it's so far after the wire, and she was easing down like you'd like to see a horse slow down by that point," he said. "I don't have an explanation for it."

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