Ed Reinke/Associated Press
Eight Belles’ trainer Larry Jones
from NYTimes.com by JOE DRAPE
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Larry Jones has watched the replay dozens of times. He has examined photographs of Eight Belles, and he still cannot fathom how the filly he trained was at one moment crossing the finish line in second place in the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby, and then in the next, she was gone.
Jones was proud of Eight Belles as she stormed down the stretch, chasing the winner, Big Brown, a powerful colt. He is now heartbroken after she shattered her front ankles as she galloped out around the far turn and had to be euthanized on the racetrack. Mostly, however, he is mystified.
“We have some photographers that we really got to know last year,” said Jones, who finished second here last year with Hard Spun. “They were on the first turn taking pictures as everybody was galloping out.
“We’ve got a lot of great pictures, they say, of her, and she’s got her ears up and was not in any kind of distress galloping out around the turn. I don’t know what happened and when. Just all of the sudden, it just went.”
Dr. Larry Bramlage, an equine surgeon who was the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ on-call veterinarian at the Derby, said it appeared that Eight Belles’s injuries would not have been prevented on a synthetic surface.
John Ward, a third-generation horseman who trained the 2001 Derby winner, Monarchos, says the industry must continue working on technologies that can screen horses more closely before they go into competition.
He told a story of a 3-year-old filly who was promising as a 2-year-old but had not seemed to be her best. An early set of X-rays did not show any injuries. When Ward sent her to the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for more sophisticated full-body tests, veterinarians found she had microfractures in three of her ankles.
“She was a catastrophe waiting to happen, and she had never spent an unsound day in her life,” Ward said. “We have got to start examining these animals at the molecular level, and protect them.”
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