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Horse Racing Has Big Highs, Big Lows

by Tom Regan
May 5, 2008

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Tom Regan

I am the father of three horse-crazy little girls. My eight-year-old has stripped her bedroom of everything that isn't connected with horses. My six-year-old asks me at least once a day to draw a picture of a horse so that she can color it. My 10-year-old wants a collector's-edition toy horse model for her upcoming birthday.

Since we moved to the Virginia countryside, the girls have made friends with a neighbor who runs a pony farm. It's like they moved to paradise. They are continually asking our neighbor for a chance to ride the ponies, but she told me recently that before they ride, they'll need to learn how to muck out a stable, clean the saddle, brush and groom the horse, etc.

"I want them to learn that horses aren't toys but living creatures that require care and attention," she told me recently.

I thought of her remarks after the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Eight Belles wasn't just a "horse," she was a real living creature. Perhaps that's why stories like the deaths of Eight Belles or Barbaro two years ago hit us the way that they do. That so much beauty and power can be so fragile seems unnatural.

Here track vet Dr. Larry Bramlage talks about what happened to Eight Belles:

The excitement over the Triple Crown chances of Big Brown seems out of place. As Pat Forde wrote for ESPN, "But that's horse racing, a sport in which the good news never seems able to outrun the bad news. For every new fan turned on to the game by Big Brown's fluidity and immense talent, two might be lost because of Eight Belles' awful ending."

We're going to look at why these tragedies seem to happen so often in the "sport of kings." Andy Beyer, sports columnist for the Washington Post, Jule Rover, NPR's health policy correspondent will be on the show, along with horse veterinarian Dr. Rick Arthur, to discuss what happened to Eight Belles and how it affects the future of horse racing with the American public.

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