From the book proposal:
Why was Barbaro so special (greatness and cut down in his prime). I investigate what it was about Barbaro that captured the imagination of the public at large. I will begin with his race record and establish that he was a horse of a kind we had not seen for many years (since Secretariat). I will then discuss other characteristics that became apparent during his stay at New Bolton. I will address the balance of his legacy, being a great racehorse, and being a tremendous patient. The latter is when he captured the imagination of the public at large and was under public scrutiny.
I will then highlight my experiences with Barbaro, expanding on my visits with Barbaro at New Bolton and my observations of Barbaro training at Fair Hill. These experiences will be used to help me further identify what made Barbaro effect those around him and Fans of Barbaro.
A higher purpose. BEFORE I MET *BARBARO*
An inspiration: all he wanted to do was live.
Certain events in life become indelibly marked in our subconscience. Some fade away. No doubt those few that remain do so because of the enormity of the event. I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing, when I heard Elvis Presley had died. I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing, when I heard Princess Diana had died. I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing, when I heard Barbaro had died. Kathy Freeborn at New Bolton Center called me at 10 am that morning. I was driving along 213 just outside of Fair Hill, heading back into the back entrance at Fair Hill. I pulled over. As she spoke, I knew what she was telling me. Knowing did not reduce the shock and sadness of the inevitable. It was overwhelming. Five minutes later I was having a conversation with someone as I was entering Fair Hill. She was leaving as I was entering. I remember having the conversation, I do not remember who it was with, nor what it was about. We did not discuss Barbaro. Barbaro had been euthanized. The news was not yet public. And it was not appropriate for me to break this news. I knew the announcement would be soon, and it was be all over the place. I just needed to get something on my site when the information was public, and then head over to New Bolton Center for the press conference.
Why try to save Barbaro ?
Need to make the connection explicit, Barbaro's Greatness, and the characteristics he further demonstrated at New Bolton Center, inspired people to be better people, and the group FOBs.
Impressions from the Jacksons and his various farm managers. Early impressions from Matz's team and at what point they knew he was special.
He ran on any kind of surface. Great horses can do that, many champions were simply champions on one surface. He won on grass, the slop and a fast dirt track. He looked like his action would favour grass, many were concerned how this would translate to dirt racing. Why did Barbaro first start on the grass (ask Peter).
Progression from Florida Derby onwards While Edgar Prado claimed Barbaro was just playing in the Florida Derby, it was the first time he had to really run with a horse engaging him. The outcome of this challenge, in Peter's mind, is "the penny dropped". He changed from a boy to a man and understood what racing was about. Combine this realization with continued phsycal development and Barbaro improved manifold from the Florida Derby to the Kentucky Derby.
Off the van at Churchill (Peter's comment; Barbaro Livingston)
Pre-Derby work, phone started ringing ...
Peter Brette's observations
Early works, in company with other horses: conversation between michael and peter, don't spot that horse too many lengths, he's a stakes winner ?
Talk with Peter about comparing him to other great horses he has ridden. Dubai Millenium I think is one.
Talk with Peter about the final breeze before the Kentucky Derby. When I read about it in the DRF the next day I simply presumed they had blown it, it was too quick. This was the point they knew he had progressed!
Talk with Peter re: his comment after the Florida Derby "boy to man". Edgar Prado, he was playing in the Florida Derby.
Talk with Peter re: why only he breezed Barbaro.
What was so impressive about the Kentucky Derby win ?
Non traditional training program (5 week gap)
The overall time
The time of the final eighth / quarter
Many speculated it was the best field for years.
Winning margin best since Assault.
Did not break a sweat (confirm with Mrs. Jackson who led barbaro into the winner's circle)
Close to the lead the whole way until he took it up.
Kentucky Derby Party at Fair Hill
Anticipated excitement. Jose Caraballo in attendance. First horse in the Derby from Fair Hill. About 200 people in attendance. Description of the room set-up. Interviews with those in attendance. Graham Motion ?
Kathy Anderson hosted a party at Fair Hill Training Center in her office suite, which is attached to Michael Matz's main barn. I am not entirely sure Michael Matz was aware of the party, and while Michael was obviously in Kentucky, his barn was full of horses. Oh well, this is the Derby. He will have to hear about it afterwards. Fair Hill as a community was proud to have its first entrant in the Kentucky Derby, and an entrant who appeared to be one of the favourites for the race. Barbaro was undefeated, but the media had played down his chances due to the unorthodox training program Barbaro had coming into the Derby. He had not run for five weeks, no horse had won the Derby after such a long respite from racing for X years. I use the term respite rather than "layoff", the term more often used, yet misleading. Clearly Barbaro had not been laid-off. His training over the preceeding five weeks had been designed to have Barbaro peak on the first saturday in May, and his most recent work showed he was really ready for his best effort (or they had blown it). Regardless, the naysayers were doing us all a great favour, Barbaro was 6-1 and I thought that anything above 3-1 and he was a good bet. I bet $80 (I had originally planned to wager $100 but decided to place a $10 box exacta on Barbaro and Showing Up). Plenty of other party attendees had also wagered on our hometown hero.
About two hundred people were gathered by the time the Derby was drawing near. Plenty of upbeat conversations. Most of us knew each other, we worked together in the mornings at Fair Hill, we lived in the local community, ran the local deli (Prizzios), worked at Delaware Park and the local horse farms. Old faces, new faces and familiar faces. Same conversations. Can it happen? Is Barbaro the best horse? Did you ride Barbaro? What was he like? Did he look vulnerable in the Florida Derby? Was the work at Churchill a sign of a great horse, or did they get carried away and work too fast? We had each analyzed the Derby and each come up with our reasons why this was Barbaro's Derby, or why it was not to be.
I saw Jose Caraballo. I asked him his thoughts. He was proud to be a part of the Barbaro story. Was he sorry he was not on Barbaro for this day, for sure, but that is racing. He rode Barbaro twice, he had had experiences as a result of riding Barbaro only a few had. Jose has ridden more than 2,000 winners. He knew Barbaro was the most impressive horse he had ridden. He was happy to be at Fair Hill to celebrate our first runner in the Derby and hope he would make history. If Barbaro made history, Jose was a part of that history.
The party settled down and gained focus as the horses were being loaded into the gate. Voices were heard to quiet everyone down. We did. The gates opened and it was easy to pick out Barbaro early in the race thanks to the handy early position Edgar was able to find. It was cool for me to see Barbaro and Showing Up racing together on the backside and making a move going into the turn. I was not ready yet to count my money, but the exacta looked pretty interesting. As the field turned for home and Edgar asked Barbaro for a little more run the atmosphere in the room was palpable. The improbable was going to happen, we knew this a quarter of a mile from home. Barbaro was running too easily as he moved to the front of the field. A Fair Hill horse was going to win the Derby. A Fair Hill horse was going to win in dominating fashion. As Barbaro drew clear down the lane we were shouting and screaming. It was an amazing feeling. Everyone wanted one horse to win, even those who had decided to wager against Barbaro knew this was one for the team, for Fair Hill. Fantastic! High fives, we were amazed. This horse had done things in the Derby that had not been done for many years. Conversations switched very quickly to the likelihood of witnessing a triple crown winner. Boued with my gambling success (I bet about once a year) I wagered with a friend of mine $100 on Barbaro taking the triple crown. I got 5-1!
People joining after the Derby: Graham Motion etc.
Barbaro at Fair Hill before Preakness (TWR)
Barbaro Wins: Circus is coming to town (posted may 8)
What an outstanding performance Barbaro displayed in saturday's Kentucky Derby. The Fair Hill horse stamped himself as a legend in the making and the modesty in which trainer Michael Matz and the owners showed after the race is an example of letting a horse do the talking.
The homecoming hero is now settled back in his barn at Fair Hill and the next few weeks could see this peaceful training center turn into a media circus. How does a place equip itself for such a frenzy of activity ? With no on-site eating facilities or public restrooms the reporters that plan on following this horse's progress had better bring a packed hamper of food and a couple of porta-pottys!
Being under the spotlight has every trainer here at Fair Hill brimming with pride for Barbaro. With our barn being adjacent to the home of this champion you find yourself looking out across to the Matz camp to catch a glimpse of the big bay colt.
The barns here at Fair Hill were individually named after thoroughbred champions the DuPonts campaigned decades ago. The names of Parlo, Fairy Chant, and Chevation were stars of their era, but now a new age could be dawning and Barbaro's name should be used to identify a new local constructioon or roadway.
Barbaro settles in posted may 9
With Barbaro settling back into his stall after the van ride from Kentucky, Michael Matz was all business again yesterday morning at Fair Hill.
The triple crown can be as gruelling on the trainer as it is on the horse and Michael did look a little tired. Hopefully the horse looks much better than the trainer and both get to have a relaxing few days.
While at the local deli, which has a wall scattered with press clippings on the exploits of Barbaro, the equine machine, I ran into the all important behind the scenes man. Peter Brette doubles as exercise rider and assistant to the Matz stable, and after the horse's Laurel victory last fall commented that the horse was a 'Derby' horse. With the Laurel race being a turf race, he was thinking more the Epsom Derby at that stage!
Barbaro: All's Quiet posted may 10
This big bay colt, named Barbaro, that days before had captured Americas number one horse race, the Kentucky Derby, was peacefully grazing in his paddock outside the barn of Micheal Matz tuesday morning.
This laid back individual, whose value had escalated to a figure that would make you want to wrap him in bubble wrap was doing what normal horses do. Munching on fresh spring grass with the sun on his back in a relaxed, quiet environment taking advantage of the Fair Hill Training Center.
While many trainers would want their horses continually pumped up on adrenaline, especially one that has another huge race to run in ten days, Matz is not changing a thing. The horse does not appear to act like a super star in the making, with a disconcerted look on his face, probably wandering what all the fuss is about.
With only a few feet between our horse path and Barbaro's paddock, we are more concerned that our skittish tow year olds would upset the big horse while he was enjoying nature's medicine.
Barbaro returns to the track posted may 11
As Peter Brette paraded Barbaro around the front of the Matz barn on wednesday morning, the horse appeared to be anxious to get back to the track. With his head tossing and tail swishing he patiently waited for Matz to escort him with the pony for their two mile trot around the Fair Hill dirt track.
Barbaro let the onlookers see how well he had come out of saturday's Kentucky Derby as the TV cameras tried to capture the training session for the evening broadcasts.
The track maintenance crew, who diligently do the daily preparations of keeping the racetrack in top shape, now feel the pressure to preserve the training strip. Making sure all the harrow teeth are correctly aligned and the depth of cushion set at the customary four inches, is another example of how everyone here at the Fair Hill training center is committed to help Barbaro further his potential.
Barbaro: Drawing all kinds to the races posted may 12
Michael Matz each morning holds court to a host of news reporters on the training of the Kentucky Derby star Barbaro.
The well documented exploits of this man are now racing lore. He is currently writing a new chapter in his life, and has made himself very accessible to the endless questions. His days as a show jumping silver medalist representing the US at the Olympics have come into play when handling the extra publicity after the performance Barbaro displayed last saturday.
Capitalising on the attention success can bring, Michael has been quick to deflect a lot of credit to his team.
Exercise riders, grooms and hotwalkers dot the landscape like an equine village all chatting in their various accents, all speaking the same language; horse racing. How universal this sport is can be seen on the nationalities that are drawn into the game, and it is the horses that are the magnet.
A horse like Barbaro is what brings people to the industry and to go to these races. As in any business, the product has to be good. The world saw Barbaro win last saturday because the Kentucky Derby is Americas race and the implications of such a win is recognized worldwide.
Fair Hill: Wood Chip and Barbaro posted may 13
Overnight rain had the main dirt track at Fair Hill a muddy mess on friday morning. Michael Matz sent Barbaro over to the wood chip track for his routine gallop (he looked great galloping about a mile and a quarter).
The seven eights of a mile wood chip track is like a sponge as it absorbs any rain fall and enables you to continue with any planned training program.
Some horses relish the forgiving surface, and horses returning from injury are able to get back to full fitness without as much discomfort.
This innovative artificial surface was the selling point of Fair Hill way back when the fledgling training center was struggling to stay afloat. Currently the wave is a tsunami of trainers wanting to be here. Projected plans maybe to switch to the latest artificial footing called 'Polytrack' and be at the forefront of the racing needs on the east coast. Several major racetracks have made a change to race on this surface in the interests of horse safety. Fair Hill continues to put the horseman's needs first and they in turn are able to reap the rewards.
Barbaro attracts the local community posted may 14
As the break for the dirt track was concluded on saturday morning, many people started to gather at various vantage points of the dirt track to witness Barbaro's gallop. There was a gathering at the clocker's stand, and at both gaps and by the starting gate. These gatherings were a little unnerving for some of the younger horses not used to such attention (and of course for their riders).
Those that waited patiently were rewarded by the presense of Barbaro at about 10 AM on the track. He came to the track, accompanied as usual by his team: Peter Brette on board, with Michael Matz and his pony. He trained beautifully and clearly looks like the class horse that he is. Leaving the track you could hear a pin drop as those that were gathered could really appreciate what they had witnessed, likely the best horse they have, and will, ever be priveleged to see.
Barbaro is really becoming the hope of all of the Fair Hill community, and this is now expanding to those in Cecil County, MD (where Fair Hill is based); Chester County PA (where his owners and trainer live) and Delaware (where his trainer has another string and where Barbaro broke his maiden).
quiet sunday at Fair Hill: Barbaro trains may 15
Sunday morning is normally a quiet, calm day for both trainers and horses at Fair Hill. A mental freshener is often needed after trainers have had a week of planning workouts, attending races, and dealing with the daily issues of running a racing stable.
Even Michael Matz's stable was notably silent, with only a handful of horses taking a trip to the track. Obviously, with six days to go for the Preakness, Barbaro was out stretching his legs but must have wandered where all the spectators were compared to saturday's melee of visitors.!
After his gallop a daily routine appears to include turning him out in his grass pen for a short time. This cool character munches on the rain-sodden grass while other members of his stable romp and play in nearby paddocks. He almost seems oblivious to his surroudings.
When he hears the crowds on Saturday you will see this heavyweight, arch his neck and flex his muscles and hopefully put on another exciting performance.
Barbaro: Double Checking and a Great Gallop may 16
Everybody that is immediately connected with Barbaro must find themselves checking everything over several times. How many times does the groom make sure his training bandages are put on properly ? Something he has done hundreds of times without question. Does Peter Brette adjust his girth and check his stirup irons more times than he would on any other horse ?
The blacksmith, Mike Lapota has the unenviable task of fitting four fresh shoes on Barbaro's feet just a day or so before his next race (Preakness no less). Each shoe has approximately seven nails that have to be hammered down through the hoof leaving very little room for error. A nail that is put too close to the laminae can cause lameness like a pair of tightly fitting sneakers.
Paranoia must play a part as the Preakness draws closer. Experienced horsemen know that with racehorses any glitch can lead to problems, and this kind of horse does not come around too often.
On a brighter note, Barbaro trained yesterday (monday) on the wood chip track (a real benefit of Fair Hill, when bad weather hits the wood chip track usually improves). Fair Hill included a second renovation break for the wood chips so the track would be in great shape for Barbaro. A small gathering of press was here to witness the gallop (NBC, DRF, Steeplechase Times etc.) He came to the track at about 10:20 AM, stood in for about five minutes (he is very relaxed), jogged nearly a turn (its a 7/8ths track), turned around and galloped probably about a mile and a half. He does his gallops very easily, it takes no effort. He looks like he is floating when he is galloping by you. It is great to be able to witness this great horse in action. We are all hoping for a win on saturday ... as if he belongs to all of Fair Hill!
You can also view our Pictures section which includes a couple of pictures of Barbaro, taken since the Kentucky Derby.
Barbaro, Lead Ponies and Diabolical may 16
Lead ponies are one of the most valuable assets for any racing stable. While escorting horses to and from the race track, they calm nervous horses and give courage to the reluctant ones.
Our lead pony 'Luke' creates a lot of curiosity with the younger tow-year-olds as he has the colour markings of white and bay. This particular colour is known as 'paint', but generally lead ponies come in various breeds and colours.
Barbaro has an equine companion, on his daily trips to the racetrack. Messaging is Michael Matz's lead pony and Michael surveys the daily gallops aboard this thoroughbred gelding. Although Barbaro always appears to be eager to get to the track, he certainly enjoys Messaging's company.
Messaging stood patentiently while Barbaro galloped his 1 1/2 miles on tuesday morning. He went to the racetrack at about 10 AM. Unfortunately we were unable to watch the complete exercise as we were training Red Aspen and Randy's Bullet on the wood chip as Barbaro galloped on the dirt track. What we could see, he looked like his exercise was effortless. There was a pretty big crowd of media in for the gallop, which clearly unfazes Messaging in his work.
Another highlight for the upcoming Preakness is the news that Fair Hill will have a second horse running, Diabolical, trained by Steve Klesaris. Two horses from Fair Hill Training Center running in the middle leg of the Triple Crown is another feather in the cap for the supporters of Fair Hill. Having been at Fair Hill for about eighteen years, I am delighted to see how things are progressing for this training center.
Barbaro draws the press may 17
Barbaro is drawing much attention to Fair Hill, and it is certainly refreshing training horses with all the buzz and anticipation in the air. Steve haskins is one such reporter we have seen for the last three days, and he wrote a nice article for the Blood Horse about Barbaro and the rationale for returning to Fair Hill.
Barbaro actually trained a little early today (thursday, at about 7:15 am), which may have thrown a few people off as it seemed more people were at Fair Hill after he trained than for his training. Perhaps he went a little earlier as he was scheduled to do a little gate schooling. While we were unable to witness this (while we were training our stable) word is he was his usual ultra cool self. Only three days to the big race, he has everyone at Fair Hill in awe of what he may accomplish. Tonight is the draw for the Preakness, lets hope he does not get an inside post, but at least its not a field of 20, so most post positions outside the first couple should be fine.
Barbaro works for Preakness may 18
It has been speculation since the Kentucky Derby whether Michael Matz would work Barbaro before the Preakness. Given it is only a 2 week break between races, working a horse is not an automatic choice. Barbaro has looked effortless all week in his gallops, so it was no surprise to learn early this morning that they were planning a short work 'down the lane' to sharpen him up a little for saturday (or at least to get a little wind into him). It does appear the decision to work was based entirely on how the horse was doing (very well) rather than some pre-set plan (horses are not machines).
It was difficult to watch the work closely (we were training during the time of his work) but it looked like he went a quarter in about 24 (or at least that was what a couple of people reported) but to be honest, he only looks like he is galloping when he is working, so it is very deceiving. Anyway, Barbaro did do a little work today, he looked great, and he looked great picking grass an hour later as if nothing had happened. Two more days to go, and Fair Hill is very excited to support this horse through this tough triple crown campaign.
Edit: as reported by Steve Haskin in the Bloodhorse, it was 24 1/5th down the lane (and I thought I was breaking the news on this one)
Barbaro: Final Fair Hill Prep for Preakness Posted May 19, 2006
Barbaro came to the track a little after 7:30 and took one turn, accompanied by his pony Messaging with Michael Matz. He looked very relaxed under a cloudy and rainy sky. Less than an hour later he was picking grass, ready to be shipped down to Pimlico this afternoon. Looks like he will be shipping down with Diabolical, so Fair Hill has two Preakness horses, and we are all very excited for the big day tomorrow.
Barbaro: All is in place may 19
With all the pieces for the Preakness in place trainers and jockeys will be strategizing how to beat Barbaro. The tighter Pimlico turns play into the hands of front running speedsters like Brother Derek and could perhaps compromise the long striding Barbaro.
Edgar Prado knows Pimlico better than anyone, having started his career here in Maryland, and has so much confidence in Barbaro and Michael Matz, that he will no doubt have Barbaro in the perfect stalking position.
The weather has been mixed lately here, lets hope there is no more rain in the forecast. That being said the weather should not effect Barbaro, he has run in all conditions, and seemingly found all to his liking.
However whatever the scenario this weekend, Barbaro seems to be a horse that can overcome anything. Lets hope he can continue his quest for triple crown glory ... which is something the industry desparately needs, and Fair Hill would love to play its small role in racing history.
Better Talk Now won The Grade 2 Dixie Stakes under an inspired ride from Ramon Dominguez. Blackie, as he is known in the barn, is a Fair Hill favorite, leading money and a Breeders' Cup winner. Winning his first race of the year, on the Preakness undercard, set the tone for the afternoon and raised our already lofty expectations. Today was going to be Fair Hill's day. I watched Blackie's race at home, only a five minute drive from Fair Hill. I then headed over to the Preakness Party. There was no need to watch the pre-race programming, we knew all the stories, and most of all we knew more about Barbaro than could be told.
The atmosphere at the party was one of calm expectations. Quiet Confidence. We had the horse, we had all seen him over the previous two weeks. We knew this was likely going to be the tougher of the two remaining races of the triple crown, but the way Barbaro had dominated his rivals in the Derby, and how well he looked training at Fair Hill over the last two weeks, left no doubts as to what we should expect this afternoon. Barbaro had also united Fair Hill in its support for one horse.
Party was upgraded with better TV and surround sound.
Mother in attendance. breaking early from the gate, reactions. Numbing reactions to the break down, Kathy Anderson, who was sat closest to the TV screen, dropped her heard into her hands. Shock, horror. No one knew what to say, nothing was said. Some stayed in the room to watch the race, others simply walked out. I exited the room even before the remainder of the field had navigated the first turn of the Preakness. ... waited outside for about an hour. mum, others gathered around. spoke with Kathy Anderson re: what she knew. Left determined to no longer update the site, no desire to exploit an aweful situation.
Start with Kathy Anderson's e-mail to her friends:
Update 14: The following is an e-mail Dr. Kathy Anderson (Barbaro's Fair Hill vet and source for much information we have been releasing) sent to her friends sunday night about the events surrounding the Preakness. She has given us permissions to reproduce it here. Apologies for any typos, they are mine, not Dr. Anderson's.
Thank you to all of you for your empathy and concern. Thought I would summarize the events of the day from my perspective at Fair Hill ...
Saturday dawned a beautiful crisp sunny May day and in schizophrenic style vacillated between blustery threats of rain and tranquil sunshine for the remainder of the day. Anxious anticipation prevailed at Fair Hill as people went about their work in order to be done to enjoy an afternoon of quality racing and what would be another page in the history of the quest for the Triple Crown. We at EVC had been cajoled into another "party" at the office to ensure the luck that had prevailed for the Derby --- naturally we agreed to do our part ... plus some --- this time we would have satellite coverage and better sound. About 200+ Fair Hill horse people crowded into the area in the late afternoon bringing their own refreshments and a pot luck array of edibles. We watched proudly as Fair Hill Training Center's best was brought to national television--- great film footage and interviews with Michael Matz, Peter Brette and Barbaro filled our hearts with pride. Post time arrived --- Barbaro's premature break from the gate surprised us --- with another horse that would have cost him the race but we believed that our Barbaro could overcome this altercation. Surprise turned to shock as our hometown hero bobbled and hobbled not 1/8th mile into the race --- shock became horror as we realized the seriousness of Barbaro's gait. The race was run but we did not see it for our hearts were crying out for Barbaro to stay upright and be able to leave the racecourse in one piece.
Those close to Barbaro's team circled together for moral support --- Peter Brette's wife Kim and 2 yr old son Nicholas, Sue Danner --- Michael's right hand person for many years, Grey --- new to the team, grooms and riders alike not able to believe that history had taken this turn. My cell phone begins to ring incessantly ... Dr. Dean Richardson calling within minutes from Florida, Dr. Scott Palmer calling, Michael Matz calling for Dr. Palmer's cell phone number --- and so it went. Barbaro transported off course back to the barn, the press reprimanded and forced back to allow digital radiographs to record the damage. Dr. Palmer reviewing the rads and discussing with the Jacksons and Michael the only viable treatment option of immediate transport to the New Bolton Center --- 1.5 hours away. A police escort up Rte 95 w/ helicopter media coverage overhead (reminiscent of OJ Simpson's famous drive) --- banners hung from 95 overpasses "God Bless Barbaro" "Pray for Barbaro"
Sue Danner and I left the deflated and rapidly departing group at Fair Hill to meet the ambulance at the ICU at New Bolton. The media had arrived before us --- security wrestled with order. Barbaro's approach was signaled by the helicopter overhead. Dr. Nunamaker (hospital chief) and Dr. Barb Dollap Greeted us and showed me the radiographs that had been e-mailed ahead --- the fractures were catastrophic ... a lateral condylar fracture that teetered on the verge of breaking the skin, a fractured sesamoid indicating significant soft tissue disruption to the attached suspensory, and a completely shattered pastern bone (P1) --- clearly it would take a miracle for Barbaro, the warrior, to survive this.
The ambulance backed right up to the ICU and Barbaro carefully maneuvered his way from the trailer to the stall --- he had been bandaged and splinted from above the hock down to his foot to encase the injury in the Kimsey brace. Careful examination indicated that he could benefit from longer splints over the cannon bone region --- these were promptly applied as he was hooked up to IV fluids and offered feed and water. Dr. Palmer and his wife arrived and continued their moral support and veterinary consultation. Within the hour Barbaro had urinated, had a drink and was eating "voraciously" (as described by Dr. Dollap). Barbaro was alive and probably as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Michael made a release to the press regarding his condition and the evening drew to a close. I took Barbaro's groom Eduardo back to Fair Hill, Sue took Michael home to rejoin his family and Peter returned to his waiting family.
Sunday --- a call from Dr. Dallap set the hopeful tone of the day. Barbaro had been eating "voraciously" all night and managed to lie down and get up several times without further damage to his leg. He appeared stable and ready to go to surgery. Dr. Richardson arrived late morning and surgery commenced --- many hours later I get the call from Dr. Richardson that Barbaro is in the recovery pool and the surgery has been completed utilizing bone plates, screw fixation, cancellous bone implants and a cast over the entire repair to protect and support the injured area. I sob tears of relief that Barbaro is still with us and tears of sadness for what might have been ... then I start the task of letting all his concerned human friends know the "good" news --- tomorrow is another day.
Note the outpouring of support; troops and the flag, holy water, posters on the fenceline etc.
Characteristics that became evident during Barbaro's tenure at New Bolton Center.
Presence, will to live. Charisma.
The broader context (all other news was bad.)
Comparing to traditional athletes: contract hold-outs etc.
Barbaro was a throwback to better times. when we were focused on the horse, not the business of the horse.
The character of Barbaro team that Barbaro reflected.
Things were so hopeful. There were weeks and weeks of positive reports. Discussions were underway regarding where Barbaro was going to go next. A certain complacency was setting in. Symptoms of the complacency manifested in a lack of new posters on the fences at the entrance of New Bolton Center. I put in a plea on the site for more posters. FOBs dutifully obliged.
And then cracks in the facade / illusion [need a better word] began to appear. The unevenness of the growth of the laminitic hoof.
My experience with Barbaro and firsthand impressions
Comment by Michael Matz when asked by a trainer I was galloping for, "Do you have any Derby horses Michael ?" The response: I have a couple, a Fusaichi Pegasus and a colt running at Laurel this weekend. This was the first time I had heard of Barbaro, although I did not know it at the time. He won that weekend, the Laurel Futurity. It was a victory that inspired Barclay Tagg to note it was the best performance he had seen since Secretariat. I was still oblivious to Barbaro, I did not watch the Laurel Futurity, but I will never forget Michael's comment as I was stood in the gate listening to my trainer quiz Michael.
Barbaro appeared on my radar screen at some point before the Florida Derby.
Kentucky Derby, $80 wager (at 6-1!). Party at Kathy Anderson's office, talking withJose Caraballo.
Following Barbaro up to the Preakness:
walking back from the track w/ Michael Matz early in the week with barbaro out in his paddock
media attention at Fair Hill all week leading up to the Preakness.
watching Barbaro in his final work before the Preakness. He was to go a quarter on the thursday. I was galloping a 2yo on the track at the time, and I should have exited the track and gone home but I wanted to wait around and observe the work, afterall I was planning to write about it. I stood watching Barbaro galloping around, under Peter Brette as usual. I was next to Lil Klesaris who was also watching. We waited, wondering what was going on, it did not look like he was working. I asked Lil what she thought. She looked down at her watch and commented that he just went in 24 seconds (for the quarter). Any normal horse we would have known, Barbaro did is so effortlessly.
I documented Barbaro's time a New Bolton from a distance. All my reports were from the Barbaro team, until ... and then I will detail a few of my visits culminating in my Christmas day visit, taking Barbaro out to graze and being one-on-one with greatness. (highlight two updates, first visit with barbaro and then the christmas day visit, along with photograph).
First visit: November 22
Update 1080: My visit with Barbaro from yesterday (wednesday, november 22, 5-6 pm):
I was to meet Mrs. Jackson at 5 pm in the lobby area of New Bolton. I had not yet met Mrs. Jackson, so not only was this my first visit with Barbaro since the Preakness, but also the first time to meet his owners. I got their five minutes early, and waited a short time in the lobby area rereading many of the get well wishes that are ever present. Right at 5 Mrs. Jackson arrived. She knew who I was, and of course I knew her immediately. No awkward moment and very quick introductions. Mrs. Jackson gave me a signed win picture of the Kentucky Derby and was just effusive in her praise for our site and all that we have done (basically she put me at ease straight away). We went in the direction of Barbaro (a quick hello to Kathy Freeborn) and passed by Dr. Sweeney's office. Mrs. Jackson introduced me to Dr. Sweeney and we had a very short (nice) chat. We reached the ICU and had to put on our ICU clothes at which time Mr. Jackson arrived. He then signed my win picture (it is signed by Mr. Mrs. Jackson, Edgar Prado and Michael Matz ... i'll get Peter to sign it too before he leaves to Florida). As we got ready to see Barbaro we continued a conversation that actually went on for the entire hour. Mr. and Mrs. Jackson were just very easy to talk with and we talked about many things, ranging from travel (I described my love of New Zealand) to horse-related issues (horse slaughter etc.)
We entered the ICU and the first thing we did was attend to a baby goat, with its mother. It was tiny and precious. Anyway, that did not take long, we ventured over to Barbaro's stall (I may get this wrong but the ICU seemed to include about four stalls, two on either side, with a large middle ... kind of like a hospital with a large reception area in the middle and private rooms on the outside.) It is a well lit area and seems (obviously) very clean etc. Mrs. Jackson had brought with her a large carrier-type bag full of freshly cut grass. We got to Barbaro's stall and opened the door a little ... Barbaro was turned away from us, and it took a little coaxing to get him to turn around and come to us. Once he did, he was very happy to see the grass. He munched away, and we stood watching him while also intermittently petting him on the head etc. You can imagine he would pin his ears back, pretend to flash his teeth a little, and then get back to munching on his grass ... then look up to us, prick his ears etc. etc. Basically you have to be careful with him, but when careful, and showing him the respect he requires, he is very happy. He also got to eat a red apple (crunch, crunch, crunch and it was gone) and a few spearmint mints (the green ones). He clearly loved those and was not happy about waiting until the wrappers were removed! We must have stood next to him at the front of his stall for a good 30 - 40 minutes as we chatted away. Barbaro then moved to another part of his stall. I got to see the what are now almost white markings on his near (left) side. Nothing to worry about there. His tail is still short, but again, this is simple cosmetic stuff, and the tail will grow out. Michael had clearly already visited as his bandage on his left hind leg was clean and had been recently reset. Shortly before we left Barbaro did lay down, conveniently close to where the remainder of the grass that Mrs. Jackson had gathered was laid. You can tell he really looks after himself by the way he was laying down. Barbaro is clearly a smart horse who seems to understand his current predicament and what he needs to do to get through this.
Overall Barbaro looked well. His coat is clean, shiny and almost summery. I know he is groomed regularly and this must help. His eye is clean and his weight looks great. I really think he looks like a horse in a race barn when you simply look at his body and up. He is big! I know Michael Matz thinks he has grown taller, but simply put, he is a big horse. He is also smart. Adapting to his current situation is pretty amazing for a three year old colt who only knew about running (and running very well). Simply put, I am in awe of Barbaro and all he has endured.
A couple of other notes about our conversations. We mentioned the Florida Derby, apparently Edgar told the Jackson's Barbaro was only playing in that race. He saw some construction (I guess on the inside) and was not focused on what he should be doing. In the Kentucky Derby Mrs. Jackson said Barbaro hardly sweated in his effort, he did it so easily. Mr. Jackson agreed. Both Mr. and Mrs. Jackson were curious as to how I would continue the updates once Michael and Peter head south. They volunteered to help me get updates if necessary. We also discussed the relationships both Michael and Peter have with their horse, and how things will be different when they leave for Florida.
All in all, this was an experience. I met two people and a horse, each of whom seems to be all that is good about life.
Second Visit: December 8
Update 1156: My second visit with Barbaro. Mrs. Jackson called me yesterday (thursday) and asked if I would be able to help out a little this weekend with Barbaro. Of course the answer was easy. I had intimated to her before that I would be happy to help out if needed. Tom, who works for the Jackson's, has basically been doing what Peter and Michael did before they left for Florida; visit, groom Barbaro and take him out to graze. Today the plan was for me to observe this, and to then do this tomorrow in Tom's absense.
This morning at Fair Hill I received a couple of packages; two sets of posters. I thought I would combine my trip to visit Barbaro with the task of hanging these new posters. Jennifer, who works at New Bolton in Publicity etc. had previously volunteered to help me with the posters. I arrived at New Bolton a little before noon and Jennifer and I hung the posters. It was a cold job, but fun nonetheless. Once done, we went for lunch, in the New Bolton canteen. I was then to meet Tom at 1 pm at the ICU. Jennifer and I got there and Tom arrived shortly thereafter. A few quick introductions and we went in to see Barbaro.
Tom set to work grooming Barbaro, I watched. As Tom was doing what he was doing we chatted away, he explaining a few things to me etc. Once Barbaro was groomed it was time to take him outside. Tom put a blanket on him and led him outside. I then grazed him for about thirty minutes as Tom and I continued chatting away. Barbaro was very easy to handle while grazing ... lets hope and assume he will be the same tomorrow. After thirty minutes he was not totally ready to come in ... I was. Back in his stall Tom set to work again grooming Barbaro a little more and then applying a standing bandage to his left hind leg (this is normal). Again, Tom was explaining a few things to me a long the way so when I get there tomorrow I should be able to find my way around and do what Barbaro has become accustomed to being done with him.
And how was Barbaro ... good, feisty while being groomed, tranquil while grazing.
Third Visit: December 9
Update 1159: My third trip to see Barbaro. Before seeing Barbaro I was told that there was no need to take him out to graze today. Perhaps it was combination of the wind, me being new to Barbaro in these circumstances etc. but it was fine with me. Either way I was looking forward to hanging out and grooming him. I took some goodies for those working in the ICU ... regifting a gift I received from Denise this morning from her visit to Fair Hill (cakes). I entered the ICU, put on the appropriate dress and went through to Barbaro's stall. I put on his halter and tied him up. I also bribed him a little ... carrots. Once tied up I started by picking out his front feet. I then began grooming him, trying to be gentle but firm. Wanting to get him clean but also stimulate him a little bit. He would tolerate this for a little while, and then pretend (perhaps) to flash his teeth ... from time to time I would get a couple more carrots to placate him a little. This went on for about fifteen minutes. During this time a gift arrived for Barbaro, which included bags of baby carrots. Apparently he had not had these for a while ... and take it from me, he quite likes them!
After the initial groom I took a break to apply his standing bandage on his left hind leg. Currently he has no bandages for his front legs. I of course do not mess with the bandage on his right hind leg. Once that bandage was in place I began grooming him again. This went on for another ten to fifteen minutes. All the while I met some of the people who are working in the ICU. Everyone just seemed super nice, and it was quite an international crowd too. I think they liked the cakes I brought them, although I did let them know I cherry-picked a few for myself before bringing them in. All in all I spent about an hour in the ICU with Barbaro. It was fun, nice and very mellowing for me. Barbaro also seemed in good spirits ... although I think I agitated him a little from time to time.
Fourth Visit: December 19
Update 1202: My fourth visit with Barbaro. So today I was to meet Mrs. Jackson and John Hennegan at 10 am at New Bolton. John and his brother are making a movie "The First Saturday in May" for which John is filming the epilogue, so following up with Barbaro. Peter Brette had mentioned this project to me a few months ago, and John and I had had a brief conversation in the summer about it and the state of horse racing in general. We had not met. Mrs. Jackson thought it would be good for us to meet (for which I was very grateful, as not only was I interested in meeting John, it meant a visit with Barbaro). Given I needed to be at New Bolton by 10 am I cut my Fair Hill work short this morning. Hawty Creek breezed yesterday so she was having a day off anyway. Another of the horses I ride also had (an unscheduled) day off! I arrived at New Bolton ten minutes early, which gave me just enough time to place another poster on the outside fence line at New Bolton. Once I got into the lobby I chatted with Kathy Freeborn as I waited for John and Mrs. Jackson. Kathy has promised to take a couple of pictures of the outside fence line so everyone can see how it is looking with all the new posters.
John arrived first. We made our brief introductions, and Mrs. Jackson arrived very shortly thereafter, and right on 10 am. Mrs. Jackson had her usual bag of grass for Barbaro and led John and I back to the ICU. As we went back John began filming. We entered the ICU, put on our ICU garments and went in to see Barbaro. He has now been moved back to his old unit (I had not seen him in this unit) but is in a different stall. Both his old stall and this stall are similar in size, and both have windows, but Barbaro's current view is much more interesting (outside, fields etc. rather than the back of another building). Mrs. Jackson opened Barbaro's stall door (it is a sliding door) about a foot and placed the freshly cut grass close to the stall door. It took a minute or so for Barbaro to be encouraged to start to eat the grass, but once he did, he was very contented. All the while John was filming, he also asked Mrs. Jackson questions for which she was hooked up to a microphone. Barbaro also receives some carrots, spearmint mints, stud muffins etc. He did get a little fiesty from time-to-time and I put on his halter so we had a little control if needed. We basically hung out for about an hour while John was filming, Barbaro was eating, and moving around his stall, peering out of his window (which is closed of course as it is a temparture controlled environment). This was also the first time I got to see his right hind leg without anything on it. In the deep straw it looks great, its only when you see the leg raised do you notice it is a little different now after all the surgery he has had. He also has a pretty big shoe on the end of it! Towards the end Barbaro decided to lie down. It seemed to take him a little while to get in position to lie down, he is quite deliberate about things he does, in order to take care of himself I think. Anyway, John thought this was brilliant, and Mrs. Jackson illustrated to us how gentle Barbaro is when he is lying down (she went up to pet him and he looked so at peace.)
All in all a great visit, and the staff everywhere were great. John was planning to meet Tom (the Jackson's farm manager) later so he could get some footage of Barbaro outside grazing, and what a beautiful day it is this afternoon for that to happen. I went to lunch with Jennifer Rench (New Bolton PR) and we caught up an everything that is Barbaro!
Fifth Visit: December 23
Update 1228: My fifth visit with Barbaro. Today I was to meet Tom (the Jackson's farm manager) and make sure I am familiar with everything that needs to be done with Barbaro as the plan is for me to substitute for Tom on Christmas day. I got to New Bolton a little early so I could hang another poster on the outside fence. Once completed I went to the ICU. I was not sure if Tom was already inside so I put on the appropriate wear and went inside. Tom was not there yet, and Barbaro was fast asleep. I left him be and went back outside to wait.
Tom arrived shortly thereafter along with his wife Kathy. We had quick introductions and then went inside. Tom went to work with Barbaro, cleaning him up and getting him ready to go outside. Once he was ready I led Barbaro outside and we walked up to his grazing spot and he dropped his head to graze. Tom Kathy and I were chit chatting as Barbaro continued to graze (talking about Barbaro of course). I then led Barbaro around for about five minutes and then continued to let him graze. It was a nice bright afternoon with a bit of a breeze. Barbaro has a blanket on when he goes outside and is just very relaxed. We stayed out for about forty minutes in total, I then led him back inside to his stall.
Once inside I tied Barbaro back up and Tom went back to work tidying him up. Along the way I met a couple more of the staff working in the ICU, one of whom will also be there for christmas day. Another very pleasant visit with a very cool horse. We left Barbaro at about 2:45 pm (having arrived at just after 1 pm) and I am making this update from New Bolton before heading up to New York for the afternoon.
Sixth visit to Barbaro: Christmas Day
Update 1234: Today I was to help out with Barbaro in the absense of Tom, the Jackson's farm manager. The plan was for me to go over, groom Barbaro and take him out to walk and graze. I had planned to arrive at 1 pm to do this, but surveying the clouds I decided to go a little earlier. I had also another poster to hang on the outside fence line (the first from overseas most likely) so I arrived at about 12:15 pm to hang the poster and go and see Barbaro.
When I entered the ICU I noticed a few people were there. It was Tom and Lucy (Mr. and Mrs. Jackson's daughter) and their four children (the grandchildren who visit quite often). I had met Tom before, so it was nice to be able to meet their entire family who seem to be very nice people (no surprise there). On duty in the ICU was Kathleen, Ray was also helping out.
I entered Barbaro's stall, put on his halter and tied him up in preparation for grooming. My idea was to give him a quick groom before he went out, and then a more thorough job once he had been outside. I set to work as I chatted away with Barbaro's visitors. I started by picking his front feet, then I gave Barbaro a quick once over with a body brush. He seemed to really enjoy it as I was brushing his forlock, something I would not have entirely anticipated. Anyway, it did not take me long to get him ready. I put a blanket on him (not one of the new gifts), put a shank on him, and then led him outside. Barbaro's visitors then left, and I was one-on-one with Barbaro for the first time while we were outside. It was very cool. He is so well behaved when he is outside, just very happy to be in the different environment. In his stall you better keep an eye on him, and make purposeful moves. Outside he is just much more relaxed. After grazing for five minutes it started a very light rain. I thought I would have to bring him in pretty quickly so I decided to have him do his walking, just to make sure he got that bit of exercise taken care of. He was so intent on his eating that it took me a little while to convince him to walk on, but once walking we did our five minutes pretty easily. By that time the drizzle had eased off and Barbaro went back to grazing. He was very happy. It was very peaceful. After about 45 minutes in total I decided to bring him in. The drizzle had returned and there was no need to get wet.
Once back in the stall and tied back up I went back to work grooming him. This time I used a curry comb and body brush. It was a time to be very careful with him, so I spent most of the brushing time with one hand on his halter, and my eyes locked on his eyes. Anyway, he cleaned up very well. I then picked out his feet again, finally attended to his head (light sponguing out of his nostrils and eyes followed by a wipe over with a wrag) and let him loose. Along the way I fed him a couple of carrots.
All in all another very pleasant visit. Chatted away with Kathleen and Ray a little. I left the ICU at 1:45 pm, so in all I spent about an hour and a half with Barbaro on christmas day. Not a bad way to get ready for a lovely (I hope) christmas dinner with Sue, Niall, Jayne and Mick, in about 20 minutes! It is now raining hard.
Seventh Visit: December 28
Update 1241: Barbaro remains comfortable (thursday afternoon). I know, I visited. It was an impromptu visit. I was planning to hang another poster on the outside fence line and meet Sabina Pierce, to get a couple of photographs of the fence line and have lunch. One thing led to another and I visited Barbaro briefly. It was the first time I had seen him with Dr. Richardson in attendance (as well as Tom, the Jackson's farm manager). It was a short visit, but great nonetheless. I helped out a little with Tom, and then stayed and chatted with Beth, who I had seen before but not someone I had met. I am not sure what Beth's official role / position is at New Bolton, but one of her tasks is to muck out Barbaro's stall. This is not an easy task given how deeply bedded the stall is for Barbaro. It is also somewhat of a mix of straw and shavings. Anyway, it was fun to learn more about another of Barbaro's care providers and fun to hang out with Barbaro, if only briefly. I did feed him some baby carrots and an apple or two.
Eighth Visit: December 31
Update 1253: Another (short) visit. I called Tom (the Jackson's farm manager) to get an update but Tom was sick and was unable to visit Barbaro today. I, of course, volunteered to run over and give him a quick groom (Barbaro, not Tom). I did. I spent about forty minutes with Barbaro, giving him a good grooming. He had just finished his dinner when I arrived. I put on his halter, tied him up and went to work. As usual, starting by picking his front feet. I then went over him with a body brush (with free hand on his halter and an eye out for him) and then a curry comb and a towel. I finished off just sponguing out his eyes and nostrils. He looked good. Before leaving I fed him some carrots and a couple of apples. His appetite appears strong, he would have kept eating if I had stayed to continue ... but its New Year's eve and I am off to dinner. Happy New Year!
January 29, 2007
Certain events in life become indelibly marked in our subconscience. Some fade away. No doubt those few that remain do so because of the enormity of the event. I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing, when I heard Elvis Presley had died. I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing, when I heard Princess Diana had died. I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing, when I heard Barbaro had died. Kathy Freeborn at New Bolton Center called me at about 11 am that morning. I was driving along 213 just outside of Fair Hill, heading back into the back entrance at Fair Hill. I pulled over. As she spoke, I knew what she was telling me. Knowing did not reduce the shock and sadness of the inevitable. It was overwhelming. Five minutes later I was having a conversation with someone as I was entering Fair Hill. She was leaving as I was entering. I remember having the conversation, I do not remember who it was with, nor what it was about. We did not discuss Barbaro. Barbaro had been euthanized. The news was not yet public. And it was not appropriate for me to break this news. I knew the announcement would be soon, and it was be all over the place. I just needed to get something on my site when the information was public, and then head over to New Bolton Center for the press conference.
Barbaro and what he meant
Four to five characteristics that exemplified Barbaro:
athleticism integrity / will to live symbol of the positive within the context of negativity
Upside but we will never know how good he was to be
Plans / considerations for leaving New Bolton.
Plans to campaign him as a four year old, and in europe.
contact Jose Caraballo and get his feedback. Ask Peter a bunch of questions. Confirm with Mrs. Jackson her comment about Barbaro not breaking a sweat after the Derby. Get some additional insight from Edgar Prado. Why did he choose to visit Barbaro 4 times, what did he mean to him etc. Confirm Barclay Taggg's comment re: the Laurel Futurity. Include Edgar Prado's words from the birthday celebration. Kathy Anderson's eulogy.
Gary Stevens (update 1421): Me: Your thoughts on Barbaro's Kentucky Derby win: Gary: It was the greatest Derby win I have seen, one of the largest margins of victory, and the ease with which he did it ...
Sue McMullen (update 1419): It is testimony to Barbaro's position on the world stage that he made the mainstream 'heavyweight' newspapers in the UK, including The Times, The Guardian and The Independant, in addition to the Racing Post, our only dedicated racing paper and Horse and Hound, our main equine magazine. I'm certain there was other coverage that I have yet to see. There might be some follow-up stories, and I have been asked to do one of them.
News of his death didn't break here until it was too late to make certain 'print' deadlines, but the story was posted on the online versions. The first UK outlet to break the news was Turftrax, a racing website, and they had it first as, having visited here and seen the devastating news, I sat in shock and sent a text message to their editorial director saying simply 'he's gone. The fight is over. 10.30 am this morning'. I didn't have to say any more than that. He knew exactly who I was talking about and what it meant. At that point I couldn't phone.
Clive Brittain is one of the UK's leading, most highly respected and long serving Flat trainers and was one of the first to take horses to the US. It was his filly Pebbles who won the BC Turf at Aqueduct in 1985 and Bold Arrangement chased home the ill-fated Ferdinand in the 1986 Derby. He is a tremendous character and a great horse lover. Needless to say, he has been following the story and today he spoke warmly of Barbaro and his loss to the sport, and beyond:
"It is tragic to lose such a horse. There is no such thing as a bad Derby so the way he skipped away from the field showed he was something exceptional. He may well have become the horse of the century. He was truly a superstar and the way he coped for so long with his terrible injuries indicated the type of horse he was. It is really very, very sad. Let's hope all the good he generated continues."
Praise indeed from a man whose judgement you just have to respect.
On a personal note, I'm deeply sad that my first post here for 2007 is to address something that many of us refused to contemplate as we had begun to think him invincible. On Friday morning I visited hospital for a routine screening that although not painful I knew was going to be very uncomfortable. As I sat and waited, feeling some dread at the prospect, I looked down at my Barbaro bracelet (that Sharon kindly sent to me) and thought of all he had gone through, demonstrating his indomitable spirit and unfailing courage. I suddenly felt my fears were utterly pathetic and wondered how many others had faced much worse and drawn comfort from that colt's great spirit.
In common with so many people I have spent the past eight months with the same daily routine, logging on wherever I have been just to see he was doing ok. Sometimes I had no time to read more than 'Barbaro spent a comfortable night' and that was enough. I could go on with whatever it was I had to do. I feel bereft and still can't quite believe he's gone so how those close to him are feeling, I just can't imagine. I had a fantasy that when he was discharged from NBC, there would be a celebration party somewhere for as many fans as possible and I had resolved to attend. It seemed almost 'when' rather than 'if'.
I'm still wearing the bracelet. I can't take it off yet. We have lost a tremendous life force, a magnificent, imperious, galloping creature, a fighter on and off the track, who became such a focus for good. May this continue and become his legacy.
Kathy Anderson's eulogy:
Update 1431: From Dr. Kathy Anderson:
Dear Fans of Barbaro:
Although I have communicated with you indirectly through Alex and this blog I am writing to you now to share some of my thoughts and emotions at the end of Barbaro's journey through life. First, I would like to thank all who energized and galvanized our will to see this journey through --- your frequent messages and notes were very appreciated and a constant reminder of just how many people were touched by Barbaro, the warrior horse.
So, what of Barbaro? Please be reassured that throughout his hospitalization, and indeed his life, Barbaro remained in charge --- his eye did not dim nor did his spirit waver until the last. Most of you have come to know him intimately through your research but for me the best thing about him was he was first and foremost a horse, an equine hero to be sure, but always a horse with all that is so special of our equine friends. He was kind and talented as a two year old, he became increasingly confident as his fan base increased, and prior to the Preakness I believe there could be no happier horse ... nor human support team.
Following Barbaro's tragic misstep, we staggered with him, but like he, brushed ourselves off and carried on with the challenging task in front of us --- to bring Barbaro back into our lives healthy and happy. New members joined the team, Dr. Richardson becoming the visible "leader" with many behind the scenes caregivers. Despite the odds, Barbaro improved steadily, our hopes rekindled, our fears diminished and Barbaro remained constant --- day by day inspecting his kingdom and his servants with little patience for the slow or weak of heart. The critical week in July became the fork in the road --- he took the path less traveled and still managed to look challenge in the eye and gather momentum towards his future. In early January I took my children to see him, for I was sure that our next visit would be in a grassy paddock at the farm of his choice. He stood on that sunny afternoon, silhouetted against his large window with a panoramic view of nearby pastures, gazing intently at the lucky equines on the horizon, no doubt plotting what contortions and gyrations he would enjoy when he joined them in the not too distant future --- that is the memory I hold in my mind's eye. His inner peace and ever present confidence that all would be right in his world, his shiny healthy coat, his well muscled and conformed body, even his wonderfully naked legs with no wraps, casts or bandages --- just his badges of courage --- the healed but deformed right hind limb and the lightly padded left hind foot ... he was a portrait of health. True, he had lost his perfect body and the innocence of youth but now he stood as a battle seasoned wise warrior.
This is how I remember him, and although my heart weeps for his loss I know that he is now cavorting and challenging his cloud mates to those races that he was destined to win. I will see that bright spark in the eye of the racehorses I meet in years to come, and I will wonder if he is mischievously playing with me, challenging me to search for that intangible quality of "champion" amongst future generations. Certainly I am forever indebted to Barbaro for his gift of courage and grace which he bestowed upon us all from the moment he burst upon the racing scene in 2005. What a ride it has been "through sickness and health." Barbaro fans hail from around the world with diverse cultural and economic backgrounds but together we have found common ground and realize that heroes come in many shapes, sizes and species --- hail to the hero Barbaro!
Edgar Prado on Barbaro's birthday:
Edgar Prado, here it is:
BARBARO..... WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NAME TO PRONOUNCE. HE GAVE ME THE BIGGEST THRILL IN MY LIFE.... (SECOND ONLY TO MY KIDS BEING BORN.)
HE CHANGED THE LIVES OF SO MANY PEOPLE.... NOT ONLY BECAUSE HE WON THE DERBY, BUT BECAUSE OF THE HEART, COURAGE AND WILL TO LIVE HE SHOWED, EVEN AGAINST THE ODDS.
HE NEVER GAVE UP, HE FOUGHT SO HARD EVERY STEP OF THE WAY. HE TAUGHT US THAT TO GIVE UP IS NOT AN OPTION.
HE BEGAN THE FLAME OF HOPE THAT NEARLY ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.... BUT WE MUST PUT OUR HEARTS INTO IT, IT IS UP TO US NOW TO ENSURE THIS FLAME WILL NEVER BE EXTINGUISHED.
WE HAVE TO REMEMBER HIM AS A TRUE CHAMPION AND A FIGHTER. THOSE WHO SAW HIM SAW GREATNESS.... HE LEFT HIS MARK ON HORSE RACING.
TO ALL THE FANS..... THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT THROUGH THE ROUGH TIMES. YOUR CALLS, EMAILS, AND LETTERS REALLY HELPED ME STAY ON MY FEET.
BARBARO BROUGHT A LOT OF PEOPLE TOGETHER... PEOPLE THAT REALLY LOVE THE SPORT, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, REALLY CARE ABOUT THE ANIMALS. BARBARO STOLE THOSE HEARTS FOREVER.
THANK YOU FOR BEING LOVING, CARING PEOPLE. WE HAVE FOUND OUT THAT THERE ARE STILL GREAT FANS ALL OVER THE WORLD. WE MUST CONTINUE TO RAISE OUR VOICES TOGETHER..... ESPECIALLY IN THE NAME OF A HORSE THAT WE LOVED SO MUCH AND WHO BROUGHT SUCH JOY INTO OUR LIVES.
BARBARO IS GONE, BUT STILL LIVES IN OUR HEARTS, AND WILL FOREVER. THANK YOU BARBARO FOR MAKING ME A BETTER PERSON. THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME THE RIDE OF MY LIFE. THANK YOU FOR MAKING MY DREAM COME TRUE. THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME LOVE YOU.
I MISS YOU, MY FRIEND, AND ALWAYS WILL. HOPE TO SEE YOU DOWN THE ROAD AND WE CAN BE REUNITED FOR ONE MORE RIDE.