The National Thoroughbred Racing Association was sent scrambling for a solution following the Eight Belles’ fatal breakdown in the Kentucky Derby. Race officials have decided on a similar approach used by the NFL where carts take injured players off the field for treatment. In this case the thoroughbreds horses usually weigh upwards of 1,200 pounds and a much more substantial vehicle was required.
Officials have settled on the HC-Hevlav 1200 (below) the large truck has a heavy lifting system that will allow the tranquilized horse to be safely transported off the track.
Even with the new ‘ambulance’ horses may still need to be euthanized admit sources within the racing association. In the wake of the tragedy and the fallout from the Eight Belles’ fiasco has prompted immediate action. The new vehicle will be available for all new races in 2008 following the Kentucky Derby.
“Anatomically speaking, they run on their toes,” said Lawrence R. Soma, professor of anesthesia and clinical pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “That makes them very fragile.”
According to the Science Daily article, a human would have to put all his weight on his middle finger to duplicate the proportion of weight a horse’s hoof supports as it hits the ground.
In 2005, Steve Wood, superintendent of Del Mar’s dirt track, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that a hoof strikes the ground with 5,000 pounds of pressure on a bone the size of a person’s wrist. Del Mar has since changed to a synthetic track.
Amid the fallout from Eight Belles’ fatal breakdown after the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association pumped out some protective spin. Part of the information it passed on was a statistic attributed to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, stating American racing suffers approximately 1.6 fatalities for every 1,000 horses that start a race.
There is some truth to that. Sometimes, even the greatest of care cannot prevent a tragedy. The physics of race horses leaves their very existences fraught with peril: large, muscular animals running very fast on very thin legs. Bad steps do happen, and when they do, they can be lethal.
5 at Belmont, Funfair broke a hind leg in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and was euthanized that day. (That race was on turf, not dirt.)
Now horses will have a similar system to NFL players.
In ’06, we had the Barbaro disaster at the Preakness, followed by the long and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save the Derby champion’s life. While that was still ongoing, we saw Pine Island’s fatal breakdown in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff that fall at Churchill Downs. In a savage bit of irony, the Distaff race was won by Round Pond, who was trained by Michael Matz — the same man who conditioned Barbaro.
With the new vehicle in place officials will see to it that the same thing never happens in front of a live TV network audience. With mounting pressure from PETA and the public something had to be done immediately Steve Arsetti was quoted as saying. “The new system will see to it that the animal is humanely transported to awaiting veterinary personnel. ”