05/03/2008 12:00AM

Eight Belles can't be saved


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Triumph turned to tragedy for trainer Larry Jones on Saturday as the brilliant filly Eight Belles suffered a fatal injury after finishing second to Big Brown in the 134th Kentucky Derby.

Eight Belles, who was attempting to become just the fourth filly in history to win the Kentucky Derby while also attempting to give Jones a rare Kentucky Oaks-Derby double, suffered condylar fractures to both front ankles and had to be euthanized. Jones had won the Kentucky Oaks 24 hours earlier with Proud Spell.

Eight Belles fell midway around the clubhouse turn while galloping out after finishing a clear second, ahead of 18 other colts in the 20-horse Derby. She was beaten 4 3/4 lengths by Big Brown.

"She passed the wire, I stood up, she started galloping funny, and that's when she went down," said Gabriel Saez, who just 24 hours earlier won the Oaks for Jones aboard Proud Spell. "There was nothing I could do for her."

Dr. Larry Bramlage said the injury was too catastrophic for Eight Belles to be saved.

"Just as she was coming to the [six-furlong] pole the second time, she broke both front ankles," Bramlage said on the track. "It was condylar fractures in both front ankles and both of them collapsed. She couldn't stand, there wasn't any possibility to even splint her or attempt to do anything with it."

Bramlage added that he had never seen an injury like that happen at the end of a race.

In the chaos that ensues following the Derby, Jones had no idea that it was his filly that had been injured while he was attempting to get to the track. Once on the track, Jones quickly hustled to his filly and was unavailable for comment.

Owner Rick Porter, who struggled for weeks whether to run Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby or Oaks, was simply stunned as he walked back to the barn.

"It's horrible; can't get a much worse feeling," said Porter, declining to comment further.

The devastating injury overshadowed what was a brilliant performance by Eight Belles. She raced in the second flight behind the speed and in the stretch, she attempted to follow Big Brown, who had made a four-wide move to the lead at the quarter pole. Eight Belles veered in to the rail down the lane but still finished 3 1/2 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Dennis of Cork.

Eight Belles a daughter of Unbridled's Song, won 5 of 10 starts, including the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes and Grade 3 Honeybee.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch