Kentucky Horse Racing Authority Speaks Out on Derby Death

The KRHA gave statement on the death of Eight Belles

The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (KHRA), an independent agency of the state government charged with regulating the conduct of horse racing activities in Kentucky, has issued a statement on the tragic loss of Eight Belles during the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

While the statement maintains that the KHRA diligently investigates all track injuries in Kentucky, the agency went a step further to address general criticisms often directed at the racing industry.

In the statement the KHRA reports that it will investigate the fatal injury of Eight Belles and will “use this information to study and recommend improvements related to the safety of racing.”

The statement also maintains that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sent the KHRA a letter requesting that certain actions be taken. “One statement indicated Thoroughbreds should not be trained or raced before their third birthday.  The KHRA has no scientific evidence to support the need to make this change.”

The statement continues, “According to Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), ‘as soon as Thoroughbreds are physically mature, they should start effective training.  It is most desirable not to let the bone formation apparatus atrophy after growth and then require it to be re-created. The most effective training takes advantage of the blood supply and cell population that contributed to growth, and convert it to forming bone in response to training.  Scientific evidence shows such horses have longer careers and are more successful.’”

Additionally, the statement refers to synthetic track surfaces. “Research is ongoing on the safety of dirt and synthetic surfaces. It would be premature to rush to judgment on the exclusive use of any particular surface at this time. The KHRA will continue to monitor the research on the safety of track surfaces.”

Suggestions have been made to reduce the number of races per season, and the KHRA addressed the issue in the statement, maintaining that it “has no scientific evidence to support this view.”

Criticism regarding horse whipping during races has been directed at the industry. The KHRA responded in the statement: “With regards to the whipping of horses, a whip is a tool used by jockeys to direct and control the horse during the course of a race. This tool provides safety for all participants in the race, including other horses and riders, by reducing contact with other horses as well as the rail.

Abuse of the use of a whip is a violation of Kentucky racing regulations and is unacceptable to the KHRA and state racing stewards. As a matter of fact, Kentucky racing stewards have taken disciplinary action against jockeys who have abused the use of a whip during a race. Kentucky stewards are required to review the videotape of a race before it can be declared official. Kentucky stewards reviewed videotapes of the Derby and saw no evidence of a violation of any racing regulation by Mr. Gabriel Saez during the course of the race.”


  1. Having watched the race, I agree with the KHRA about Saez not abusing the whip, but otherwise, I think owners and trainers should be made to more carefully evaluate the maturity of their horses before they start training, and the intensity of the racing schedules is certainly something that should be discussed! Moreover, breeders should not just breed for speed, but for soundness and solid bone structure, as well! !!

  2. Same old blah blah blah from the racing industry. Bramblage, the big time vet, makes a high profile living off of treating broken race horses, so it’s hard not to see a conflict of interest there.

  3. Horses are very beautiful animals, so they should be taken good care of, like all nature needs to be. So if you see that this sport is dangerous then try to make it safer without abusing them.

  4. You know horses are born to run. Their two main interests in life are flight and survival and they are competetive animals- especially the dominant ones. I thinking that putting imature horses on the track is wrong, because obviously, it does damage to their physical well being and that is easy to change. Is horse racing a cruel and imhumane sport? No, not if you ask me, and not if you ask Monty Roberts (I feel totally safe to say.) Are there things that can be improved to help the well being of these beautiful athletes are are bred to do what they love? By far yes. So my only problem is why we have been questioning theses improvements for so long. How much more money has to be spent on horses like Barbaro and how many more horses like Eight Belles have to go down because people have dilly dallied on making safer tracks and making it a SOUND rule to put more mature horses on the track? Horse racing is suffering because people are questioning silly things that should of been decided a while ago. I love to watch the horses run, and as a pure competetor myself (track and cross country) as well as passionate horsewoman, I think these decisions of track safety, whip abuse and use, and racing more developed horses should be in affect already. If people really care about the horses and this sport and want tragedies like these to stop- they should be getting active already!

  5. Pardon: “Their two main interests in life are flight and survival” should be changed to “Their two main interests in life are REPRODUCTION and survival.” Horses are flight animals and “”

  6. All other horse sports wait until the horse is physically able to withstand its requirements before competing. Horse racing should do the same thing and wait until the horses are three years old and mature enough. As for letting muscle atrophy that’s ridiculous. The horses can still be trained but they don’t have to be overworked.

  7. Eight Belles was raced TOO young,and TOO hard….it wasn’t meant to be this way! These people are in it for the money,not for the welfare of the horses…..They are headed to hell,and have God to account to!


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