The dust is still swirling around the circumstances of Eight Belle’s untimely demise at the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago today. The sandstorm kicked up in the wake of the heavily televised tragedy will have at least two immediate repercussions, and maybe three (if we’re lucky).

1-More viewers gritting their teeth in fear of another catastrophic breakdown.

2-Overall, fewer animal-adoring viewers. At some point we just can’t bear to watch, right?


3-An increased awareness of the safety issues surrounding the sport—which may eventually lead to real change in the thoroughbred racing industry.

The Scientific American’s excellent article (thanks to Gina at PetConnection for the find) is exemplary of the kind of press Eight Belle’s dramatic death has occasioned. It reports on the cries for reform from all levels of sporting society along with the industry’s variously exculpatory and conciliatory words and deeds.

But then it goes further than most, detailing the budding science behind some of the calls for change. Genetic investigation into the cause of catastrophic injury is a nascent field of study, as is research into track surface safety. Both areas of study hold much promise for the future of racehorse safety. But it’s taken a long time to amass any significant data—and most of it still forthcoming.

It’s just a short piece. And though I was gratified to see so well regarded a periodical as The Scientific American embrace the significance of equine biology in the context of thoroughbred racing reform, the story could’ve been more complete.

After all, it might’ve wondered why a sport so ancient would fail to seek out the answers to these questions in advance of a spiraling decline in thoroughbred thriftiness over the past decade or three. But not even the Scientific American’s perfect.

In case you’re wondering, I won’t be watching the Preakness today (mostly in principle but also because I fear for my delicate animal sensibilities). And though I’m still in Triple Crown withdrawal, it’s clear I’m not going to suffer alone.

We’ll all sit and read a book, watch a movie, cook dinner, anything…as long as we’re not complicit in stirring up the dust swirling around the next “Cripple Crown” casualty. At least not until the industry wakes up to the need for the kind of research needed to reform its antiquated ways.