Big Brown's all alone at the end of the Kentucky Derby. Notice his PMMA-adhesive adorned hooves. On the right front you can clearly see the repair to his wall separation. What you see on the outside of his left front is a reinforcing area of adhesive in the heel area. Both heel wall separations were on the inside.Big Brown defied the odds today, when he broke from the 2oth post position and won the Kentucky Derby by several lengths. Favorites aren't supposed to win the Derby and it's been almost 100 years since anyone won from the outside post.
But most of all, horses aren't supposed to race in--let alone win--a Grade I race and the most famous race in the world, at that, with lumps of epoxy both filling cavities where his inside heels used to be and holding on shoes with rubber gaskets between the shoe and hoof wall.
Did he win in spite of his foot injuries or because of his designer shoes? We'll never know. Certainly he won because he was the dominant horse. The slightly other-worldly acceleration he showed as they rounded the turn was like a Hollywood special effect.
But charging gamely after him was the gallant filly Eight Belles, who galloped out, then collapsed on the track. Veterinarian Larry Bramlage reported on the telecast that she broke both front ankles and could not stand to be splinted and loaded into an ambulance. She was euthanized on the track. My guess is that she was pretty close to being in front of the main grandstand full of the second largest attendance in Kentucky Derby history.
What a tragic footnote to Big Brown's compelling and dominating performance. Bramlage said it was the first time he had heard of such an injury after the finish of a race.
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jane Smiley offers some insights into Eight Belles' tragic demise in today's New York Times.
Memories of the 2008 Kentucky Derby will be a split screen. NBC's telecast minimized the breakdown of second-place finisher Eight Belles. The filly broke both front legs after crossing the finish line. She dumped her jockey and kept running until she collapsed, according to reports. NBC did not show her collapse but did offer veterinarian Larry Bramlage a comment/report opportunity. He seems to be on hand for the big breakdowns. (New York Times blog photo)