Barbaro's Legacy: Better Life for Horses
Monday, April 23, 2007; 4:37 PM
-- Nobiz Like Shobiz. Scat Daddy. Curlin. Circular Quay. As the countdown begins to the Kentucky Derby, these colts and a half dozen other hopefuls will be publicized, scrutinized and handicapped all the way to post time on May 5 at Churchill Downs. By the time the band strikes up "My Old Kentucky Home," everything about these gorgeous creatures will be all too familiar to thoroughbred racing fans.
Even then, the mention of one horse in particular is still likely to choke them up.
Who can forget the sight of him blazing down the stretch on Derby Day and pulling away from the field for a breathtaking 6 1/2-length victory, the widest margin in 60 years. Undefeated in six races, Barbaro was proclaimed the next Triple Crown champion even before he arrived at the winner's circle.
"That moment of athletic achievement, borderline perfection for a 3-year-old colt, that doesn't go away," said Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa.
Richardson became inextricably linked to Barbaro following the colt's harrowing breakdown at the Preakness, just two weeks after the fantastic finish in Kentucky.
He operated on him the very next day; eight months later, he euthanized him after an insidious case of laminitis dealt the horse a final blow.
"I have an honest feeling for the horse in missing him," he said. "I don't think anyone would find that odd, and it's certainly not debilitating, not from the first day I put him down. My job is to go on."
So will the racing industry, putting behind a sorrowful season and looking ahead to a new start and perhaps, finally, a Triple Crown winner.
Still, Barbaro looms large.
Intertwined with Derby preparations are a myriad of events commemorating Barbaro. Documentaries and TV specials are ready to roll, Barbaro books have hit the shelves and racetracks are planning tributes in California, Florida, Kentucky and Texas.
"It's incredible to me that America is remembering him in such a manner," said Gretchen Jackson, who, with husband, Roy, bred and owned the colt.