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Changes in wake of Eight Belles' death

May 22, 2008

Racing, stung by criticism after the death of second-placed Eight Belles in the minutes after the running of the Kentucky Derby, has announced measures aimed at improving safety.

Developments announced by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority (KHRA) came as the post mortem report into Eight Belles' death revealed no pre-existing bone abnormalities in the horse, who suffered compound fractures of both front legs at the fetlock joints.

Dr Lafe Nichols, chief state veterinarian, said the examination found no disease or condition affecting the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems or other major organs.

The KHRA has decided to form an equine safety and welfare committee, and has also employed veterinarian Mary Scollay as equine medical director.

The committee will explore wider safety issues, including racing surfaces, medication, horseshoes and jockey safety, and make any recommendations it feels will improve racing safety.

KHRA chairman Robert Beck, in signalling the move before the meeting, said: "I envision the group would assemble information that has already been prepared by other organizations and assess the need for additional work on safety issues.

"We also want to work with other industry organizations, owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys to make improvements to the racing community."

It is intended that Scollay will work with the committee. The position was signalled long before the Eight Belles tragedy.

The KHRA has defended its position on safety in the wake of Eight Belles' death.

"The KHRA has been constantly reviewing safety issues and will continue to monitor research and development in that area," it said in a statement.

"The KHRA is concerned about the health and welfare of thoroughbred racehorses. The KHRA remains actively involved in all safety aspects of thoroughbred racing. All horses are examined by a KHRA veterinarian prior to racing to ensure they are sound and free of injury on race day.

"The KHRA has enacted race day medication rules designed to protect not only the horses, but the jockeys as well ... [it] will remain vigilant in seeking ways to protect all of the athletes involved in horse racing.

"The KHRA will continue investigating injuries occurring during or after a race. In light of the Eight Belles tragedy, the KHRA intends to enhance its protocols in this area. The KHRA will use this information to study and recommend improvements related to the safety of racing."



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