The high toll that American dirt tracks take on equine performers was again called into question after the death of Eight Belles, runner-up to Big Brown in Saturday's Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The filly finished second to the favourite but stumbled to the track after the winning line, having broken her front ankles.
Her death overshadowed what should have been a celebration of a storming victory for Big Brown, who overcame the widest draw to become the first Derby winner from stall 20 since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.
Success in this, the first leg of the American Triple Crown, took the colt's unbeaten record to four and gave jockey Kent Desormeaux his third Kentucky Derby. It was a first success in the Run For The Roses for trainer Rick Dutrow jnr.
Desormeaux, successful on Real Quiet in 1998 and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2003, said: "I feel like the luckiest man alive. Once I asked him to reel in the guy in front of me he took off."
Sligo was the venue for a piece of history yesterday as Ruby Walsh rode the 1,000th winner of his career on the Dessie Hughes-trained Rare Article.
Fresh from securing the Irish National Hunt jockeys' championship, Walsh conjured a trademark dazzling ride to reach the landmark. Still only third and going nowhere at the final flight, he refused to give up and galvanised a sustained run to beat Lady Lenson by a head in the final stride.
* Today's meeting at Newcastle has been abandoned due to waterlogging.