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Another black eye for horse racing

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By Claude Lewis

The Kentucky Derby is sometimes referred to as "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports," and with just cause.

So much anticipation, so much at stake, is over in a flash.

The winner of the Kentucky Derby is an overnight sensation. A place in history. Big bucks. A shot at the Triple Crown.

This past Saturday, there were 20, 1,200-pound three-year-old thoroughbreds thundering around Churchill Downs for a mile and a quarter.

While the owners and trainer of the horse named "Big Brown" celebrated, a more sobering face of the sport surfaced on the backstretch.

The second-place horse "Eight Belles" had collapsed, two front ankles broken. The poor filly who gave her all for her trainer and jockey had to be immediately euthanized.

It has to rate as another black eye for the sport of horse racing, which is still reeling from the death of 2006 Derby winner "Barbaro."

The owners of "Barbaro" are to be commended for their efforts to save the horse's life. Significant strides were made in the field of treating and rehabbing a broken leg.

"Eight Belles" never had that chance with two broken legs.

While some folks around the ponies say broken legs and death are a part of the game, others say not enough is being done to insure the health of the horses.

If we now have technology to treat things that were once unimaginable, then why not also apply it to race horses, who literally put their life on the line every time they rumble?

Why insist on perpetuating the Dark Ages?

When NASCAR racing lost its biggest star - Dale Earnhardt in 2001 - it was a wake-up call for governing officials to make the sport safer.

The Hans Device and other measures were implemented almost immediately.

With the tragic death of "Barbaro," some strides were made.

The California Horse Racing Board required its busier tracks to install a synthetic surface called Polytrack. It's easier on horses' feet and ankles and statistics are proving it is cutting down on injuries and deaths.

It's time other tracks - including the "Triple Crown" biggies, among others, follow suit.

The Preakness is coming up in a skant two weeks.

Oh, by the way, "Big Brown" has had trouble with cracked hooves himself.

Is another tragedy waiting in the wings? Hopefully not.

But I think I'll sit this one, and others, out until a national move is made to make the sport safer.