[ESPN - opinion - comments at full story link]
This one is different. This time, the people are not going to buy that tired, old "it's part of the game" line. The public is outraged by the death of Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby and asking some very serious, very appropriate questions about whether or not horse racing is tantamount to animal cruelty.
This is usually where the sport buries its collective head in the sand, tells people how much everyone involved with the game loves their horses, and hopes the controversy dies down. This time, that's not going to work. The horse racing industry has to be proactive and take some severe measures to make this sport safer and more humane for the animals that compete and the humans that ride them.
People are tired of seeing horses die. Perhaps some of the reactions that have come from the Eight Belles situation are over the top, but that's not the point. Horseracing has to react to public sentiment, something it has never been very good at doing. It has to do so because it's the right thing to do for the horses and because it has to deal with a public relations nightmare.
Are we that far from the point where sponsors pull their ads from Triple Crown telecasts because of pressure put on them by animal rights activists and/or the media outcry over all these deaths? Horseracing has come to a crossroad. It had better go down the right path.
Bill Finley is an award-winning racing writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today and Sports Illustrated. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org