Hundreds turn out for Eight Belles memorial - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Hundreds turn out for Eight Belles memorial

Owner Rick Porter says the death of his filly, Eight Belles, should serve as a catalyst for change.

The filly broke both ankles and had to be euthanized after finishing second in this year's Kentucky Derby.

Her death has since sparked vigorous debate about what should change within the horse racing industry.  Just last week, Kentucky joined other states in banning anabolic steroids for thoroughbred and standardbred racing.

But some like Porter argue there is still so much more to do.  Porter told Fox 41 News Sunday the state should have banned steroids a long time ago.

Porter and trainer Larry Jones contend Eight Belles is a prime example of a thoroughbred that can succeed without steroids.  Hundreds turned out at Churchill Downs Sunday for a public memorial for Eight Belles.

"I have been riding for about 10 years. I watch the Derby and all the races," said Sara Humphrey, a horse fan.

The death of Eight Belles inspired Sara Humphrey to write a poem:  "She prances along just so happy, to see her face just fills us with glee, her ears are perked her legs so small," read Humphrey.

She was among hundreds who turned out Sunday to pay their respects to the horse, whose remains are interred in the garden of the Kentucky Derby Museum.

"We all want to know but we can't ask, there are many fractures just like glass.  It's not just one leg but it's two," said Humphrey.

Allegations of abuse, steroids and calls for a ban on riding whips grew in the weeks that followed her death.  In the months since, groups on the both the national and state level have been impaneled to study track conditions, medications and chronicle injuries.

"It was something we never ever dreamed and we'll never understand," said Larry Jones
Trainer, Eight Belles.

Jones says it has been the worst year of his life.

"For Eight Belles, she stole a piece of my heart, when she fell that day.  She ripped a big piece of my heart right out with her," said Jones.

Jones and owner Rick Porter are convinced Eight Belles' death will serve as a catalyst for change.

"We like to think it's not from her tragedy that made it change.  It's the fact that we proved you don't have these things in order to compete at the very highest level," said Jones.

For some like Humphrey and the younger girls who knelt by the filly's remains, the loss is less about the industry and more about the individual.

Among the changes in Kentucky, the state's horse racing authority has asked equine physicians and the state's tracks to monitor injuries that occur in practice not just race days.

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