- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

BALTIMORE — The blossoming racing career of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro ended yesterday afternoon and his life remained in danger last night after he sustained serious fractures above and below his right rear ankle during the 131st Preakness Stakes.

Following radiographs and X-rays to confirm the fractures, a sedated Barbaro was transported via ambulance to an animal hospital in Kennett Square, Pa., where he will have surgery today.

The injury, the most harrowing in a Triple Crown race since Charismatic suffered rear left leg fractures at the end of the 2000 Belmont Stakes, overshadowed the 51/4-length Preakness win by Bernardini and stunned the record crowd of 118,402 at Pimlico Race Course.

“Let’s just hope he lives,” said Nick Zito, trainer of third-place finisher Hemingway’s Key. “These things happen that no one can dream of.”

Barbaro trainer Michael Matz was not available for comment.

Said Gretchen Jackson, who owns the colt with her husband, Roy: “You can expect being beaten, but you don’t think about this. We’re hoping they’ll operate on him [today]. That’s as much as we know.”

Barbaro delayed the start of the Preakness when he used his nose and front legs to borough through the starting gate. He was corralled about 60 yards down the track and was quickly examined for injuries before being placed in his gate.

The colt appeared to start fine, but an estimated 10-15 seconds later — less than a quarter-mile into the race — Barbaro took a miss-step. Jockey Edgar Prado quickly pulled back the reins, steered Barbaro out of traffic and tried to slow the colt down. Instantly, Barbaro was favoring his right rear leg.

“I heard a noise about 100 yards into the race and pulled him right up,” Prado said. “When we went to the gate, he was feeling super and I felt like he was in the best condition for this race. He actually tried to buck me off a couple times, he was feeling that good.”

Barbaro, who on May 6 won the Kentucky Derby by 6 lengths, finished his racing career 6-for-7 with earnings of more than $2.3 million.

Jeremy Rose, rider for Hemingway’s Key, was alongside Barbaro when the colt pulled up.

“From my vantage point, he broke down right next to me and I saw Edgar pull him up,” Rose said. “I thought maybe someone came over him or that he might have been checked. But it looked bad.”

Once Prado stopped Barbaro, he dismounted and Matz, standing with his wife, Dorothy, and several of the couple’s six children, went straight to the track to help Prado and veterinarians calm Barbaro down. They gently moved him to the outside rail before the field came to finish the race.

“When they broke, there were too many people standing in front of me, but then I saw Michael run by me and I knew something was wrong,” winning trainer Tom Albertrani said. “You feel upset when you see something like that happen and I can understand what they’re going through.”

Back in his stall around 6:30 p.m., Barbaro underwent an examination. A new splint was applied to the leg and he was escorted to the ambulance at 7:22 p.m. Barbaro, who received a police escort, arrived at the New Bolton Center of the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania at 9 p.m.

“The way the fracture happens is that he broke the bone above the ankle first and because he had so much energy and adrenaline, he kept running and that broke the bone below the ankle because of the instability,” said Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine practitioners. “As quickly as the jockey slowed him down, I would anticipate there would be an attempt and reasonable chance to save him.

“This will require pretty major surgery,” he added. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed.”

Bramlage was also on the scene six years ago in New York when Charismatic broke two bones in his left front leg, ending his career. Surgery saved the colt’s life, though and he is currently a stallion in Japan.

Bernardini, who paid $27.80 to win, was racing for only the fourth time in his career. He passed three horses through the second turn and cruised to his third consecutive victory and the first Triple Crown wins for jockey Castellano and trainer Albertrani.

“Around the far turn, I was looking around for Barbaro and didn’t see him anywhere,” Castellano said. “I thought maybe something had happened, and then I crossed the wire and he was out there in the middle of the track and the jockey was already off him.

“I was feeling different emotions. I was really excited for me and the team to win but at the same time, I saw that horse and how everybody was trying to help him and I was really sad.”

Said John Ferguson, racing manager for Darley Stable, which owns Bernardini: “This is obviously tempered by what’s happened to Barbaro. Racing is a small world and the Jackson family and Michael Matz and [assistant trainer] Peter Brette are friends of ours. We know how it feels because it’s happened to us, but not in this high profile of a race.

“We just hope his life can be saved.”

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