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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bye Bye Barbaro

I was so looking forward to watching The Preakness Stakes. Like many I was high on the horse named Barbaro. Instead of Barbaro winning the race and having a shot at becoming the first horse to win Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown since Steve Cauthen rode Affirmed to the title in 1979 he broke his right hind ankle in the first furlong of the race.

While I was really high on this horse as the race drew closer I had an ugly inkling something bad was going to happen that would prevent this horse from winning the Preakness. And when he broke through the gate in a false start I thought this must be it and made a comment to my husband that the colt would likely be gate training all next week. Than he had a beautiful start and things looked good for the first few seconds of the race until the announcer said that Prado was pulling Barbaro up before the quarter pole. NBC went on to show the rest of the race which was surreal because the jockeys in the race had no idea what had just happened but the crowd did and was pretty quiet while race was run-not the expect behavior of tens of thousands of human beings.

Any kind of leg injury can be career ending for a racing or show animal but a broken ankle can also be life threatening because in order for the bones to heal the horse must stay off of the appendage but since horses cannot lie down for more than a couple of hours at a time without damaging most of their internal organs and horses need to stand on all 4 legs for balance this is a very tricky proposition. One solution is to put a horse into a sling that is put under the belly and attached to strong pulleys that are bolted into the rafter beams of the barn that will hold the horse up 24/7. And seeing as how Barbaro seemed to understand the trouble he was in, let his jockey pull him up (I have seen horses with such injuries refuse to stop racing and run full tilt on a broken leg and in one instance had no hoof by the time the rider was able to pull the horse up and had to be destroyed on the track) and was very calm right after the injury took place, allowing the handlers and vets to do what they had to do to stabilize him and get him to the hospital

Barbaro is a very valuable horse and the plan seems to be to save him for a breeding career. He has a lot of money backing him so everything that can be done to save his life will be done. Now it all depends on how well his surgery goes today, just how badly he injured his ankle and if everything works in the surgery how good a patient he will be over the next months and years.

I really feel for the Michael Matz Stable. Being so high on a horse, having what is considered the best 3 year old racing today and the very real prospect that this colt will win the Triple Crown only to have it cruelly wiped out in a split second. It's what they call racing luck. But life goes on Matz and his employees will have to go back to work because Barbaro is not the only horse in training in Mr. Matz's barn and the rest need feeding, stalls cleaned and work. And these chores will likely do a lot of good for the trainers, grooms, hot walkers, exercise riders, etc., who were all impacted by this event. Doing something useful is always good medicine when tragedy strikes.

I hope Barbaro comes through his surgery today with flying colors and goes on to be a good patient and recovers enough to have a long and successful career in the breeding shed but I have been around long enough to realize this is pretty unlikely and that the colt may not survive the weekend. All we can do is wait and see.

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