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DD - Bibliophile

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posted on May, 20 2006 @ 08:36 PM
Saturday, May 20, 2006

Barbaro is done racing. I knew this almost immediately. I am not superstitious. When I saw him break through the starting gate I was not surprised. He was hopped up before the race. The NBC commentators seemed to think this was a significant event, a sign that things would not go well for him. Track people are like mariners; superstition is an ever-present spectre, however reasonable it may seem to them.

The only thing prescient about it ex post facto is that one hundred yards down the stretch Prado pulled him up. I felt his final injury probably started with his initial burst through the gate. I think the long pastern cracked then and his breakdown after the start was the denouement. I do not know yet exactly what was broken, but the news reports state he broke bones above and below the “ankle”. That means the cannon bone and either the short or long pastern bone.

It scarcely matters. This is a career-ender and possibly a life-ender. Equine science and medicine have advanced in the years since Ruffian broke down during her match race with Foolish Pleasure. She had surgery, but fought the harness and slings designed to protect her from herself and destroyed what was left of her leg. They euthanised her in her stall. Barbaro’s life depends upon how he behaves when he wakes up. He is a hot horse, so it is going to be a nail-biter for everyone – owner, trainer, and devoted followers.

Barb may make it through surgery and recover the ability to stand on all four legs, but he will never see the track again. This is very sad for me because in all the years I have followed American Thoroughbred racing, no colt has come as close to looking like Big Red as Barbaro has. That big rump and that easy stride he had at the Kentucky Derby looked very familiar and I almost thought I was a kid again, sitting in front of the RCA and watching Secretariat grab the ’73 Derby.

As ghoulish as it sounds, I hope they autopsy Barb if he is euthanised. I want to know if his heart is as big as Secretariat’s, which weighed in at about 22 pounds. The average horse heart weighs around eight to nine pounds. I remember nodding when I heard about the size of it. He ran with an ease not seen in a horse before that time.

Barb, like Big Red, had the look of a pony with big wind. I think he would have beaten the eventual winner, Bernardini. I think he would have taken the Triple Crown, wrapping up any lingering questions at the Belmont as to just what a great horse he is.

We will never know now. At the moment, the only thing we can do is wait. He did not finish the Preakness. He had barely begun it. The question is will his life play out as his last race did, over after it has only just begun.

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