Barbaro (horse)
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Barbaro Horse
Barbaro (middle) walking to the track at the Fair Hill Training Center in May 2006, a week after winning the Kentucky Derby
DamLa Ville Rouge
DamsireCarson City
FoaledApril 29, 2003
West Grove, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedJanuary 29, 2007(2007-01-29) (aged 3)
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, U.S.
CountryUnited States
BreederH. Roy and Gretchen Jackson
OwnerLael Stables
TrainerMichael R. Matz
Record7:6-0-0 (1 DNF)
Major wins
Laurel Futurity (2005)
Tropical Park Derby (2006)
Holy Bull Stakes (2006)
Florida Derby (2006)
Triple Crown race wins:
Kentucky Derby (2006)
NTRA "Moment of the Year" (2006)
Barbaro Stakes at Pimlico Race Course
Barbaro Stakes at Delaware Park
Statue at Churchill Downs

Barbaro (April 29, 2003 - January 29, 2007) was a champion American Thoroughbred racehorse who won the 2006 Kentucky Derby but shattered his leg two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes which ended his racing career and eventually led to his death.

On May 20, 2006, Barbaro ran in the Preakness Stakes as a heavy favorite, but, after a false start, he fractured three bones in and around the fetlock of his right hind leg. The injury ruined any chance of a Triple Crown in 2006 and ended his racing career. The next day, he underwent surgery at the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania for his injuries. In July he developed laminitis in his left rear foot. He was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent five further operations, and his prognosis varied during an exceptionally long stay in the Equine Intensive Care Unit at the New Bolton Center. While his right hind leg eventually healed, a final risky procedure on it proved futile because the colt soon developed further laminitis in both front hooves. His veterinarians and owners concluded that he could not be saved, and Barbaro was euthanized on January 29, 2007.[1]

He was a third-generation descendant of Mr. Prospector, and as such Barbaro was related to many notable racehorses including Afleet Alex, Smarty Jones, Funny Cide and Fusaichi Pegasus.


Barbaro was bred and owned by Gretchen and Roy Jackson's Lael Stables of West Grove, Pennsylvania.

Barbaro was trained by Michael R. Matz at Fair Hill Training Center. During his racing career he was ridden by Edgar Prado and Jose Caraballo. Neither jockey rode him at any time other than in his races: Peter Brette was his regular exercise rider.

Racing career

Barbaro was undefeated in his first 5 starts.

He was sent off as the second choice in the Kentucky Derby at odds of 6:1, in a full field of twenty horses. Barbaro charged ahead during the last turn and straightaway of the race to win by six and a half lengths. Barbaro's lead in the final furlong expanded, although jockey Edgar Prado did not use the whip and ask for his top speed. This margin of victory at the Kentucky Derby was the largest since 1946, when Triple Crown winner Assault took the "Run for the Roses" by eight lengths. Barbaro's win made him only the sixth undefeated horse to win the Kentucky Derby.[2] Barbaro had not competed for five weeks prior to the race, since the Grade I Florida Derby, which was the longest layoff in 50 years for a Derby winner.


Barbaro's Preakness Stakes began with a false start when he broke from the starting gate prematurely. Barbaro was deemed fit upon being reloaded into the gate.[3] As the restarted race began, Barbaro broke cleanly, but suffered a catastrophic injury as the horses passed the grandstand shortly after the start.

Many theories arose as to the cause of the accident, though none have been confirmed. Barbaro broke his right hind leg in more than 20 places:[4] a broken cannon bone above the pastern, a broken sesamoid bone behind the fetlock and a broken long pastern bone below the fetlock. The fetlock joint was dislocated, and his foot was left dangling loosely. Veteran jockey Edgar Prado immediately pulled Barbaro up, and brought him to a gentle stop. He dismounted and leaned his shoulder into the horse's shoulder to support Barbaro until track attendants could arrive. Bernardini with Javier Castellano as jockey went on to win the race.

Barbaro's injuries were life-threatening. Unlike other mammals, such as dogs, a horse cannot survive in humane circumstances on three legs. A broken leg in a horse can lead to complications as the other legs attempt to bear the weight of the horse's body.[5]

Initial surgery

In 1971 Hoist The Flag underwent successful pioneering surgery for a similar injury to that suffered by Barbaro.[6] Having been taken to the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania for treatment, Barbaro was assigned to the care of equine surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson. The New Bolton Center is renowned for its specialized care, especially for animals needing complicated bone surgery. The day after the race, Richardson performed a fusion of the fetlock and pastern joints to stabilize the leg and make it strong enough for Barbaro to walk on. It was a five-hour procedure and was one of the most difficult surgeries Richardson had performed. The surgical team successfully implanted a Synthes stainless steel Locking Compression Plate (LCP) and 27 screws into the colt's injured leg to span the comminuted fracture and joints. They used the LCP because its screws thread into the plate to provide maximum strength. Richardson was one of the first equine surgeons to implement this new technology, originally designed for humans. A fiberglass cast was placed over the LCP to further protect the construct. Barbaro was put into a recovery pool at 7:40pm.[7][8]

After about an hour in the pool, at around 9:00 p.m. EDT, Barbaro began to calmly awaken from the anesthesia. He stood and then practically jogged to his stall. He ate and was able to comfortably put weight on the injured leg. The blood supply to the injury site was very good, but Richardson still gave Barbaro a 50-50 chance of survival.[9][10] By the following morning Barbaro was already showing interest in some of the mares at the facility. He was walking well on his limb around the stall and was quite active for his condition; his first week of recovery went well. The cast was replaced on June 13, and again on July 3.


In the first week of July, complications arose, and Barbaro had problems with both hind legs. He developed an abscess in his uninjured left foot, which was treated topically, but he carried a fever through the weekend and failed to put weight on his injured right foot for any significant time.

By July 13, Barbaro had developed a severe case of laminitis in the left hind hoof--a potentially life-threatening affliction that is common in horses who shift weight to one hoof for extended periods to keep pressure off an injured hoof. A procedure called a hoof wall resection removed 80% of Barbaro's left rear hoof. The remaining 20% of his hoof wall was attached to the coffin bone and was still living tissue, but it was unclear how much of it would grow back. Both rear legs were in casts. Richardson stated that his plans were to restrict himself to aggressive but standard treatments; he would use no experimental procedures.[11][12][13] Barbaro was given a special support boot for his laminitic hoof and placed on painkillers; a support sling was brought into his stall to allow him to take the weight off his hooves for hours at a time.


On August 8, Barbaro's broken right leg had fused to the point where the veterinarians would have replaced the cast with a brace if his left leg had been sound. The coronet band (the area from which the hoof grows) on his left leg appeared healthy and all signs were encouraging.[14] On August 15 it was reported that Barbaro had been allowed to graze outside for the first time since his accident.[15] Two days later, Barbaro was no longer using the sling to support his weight, and its use was discontinued.[16] The next day, August 18, radiographs showed that his fractured right leg was almost completely fused.[17]

By September 26, it was decided that Barbaro's cast would not be replaced as long as he was comfortable in it. His left hind hoof had regrown about 18 millimeters and the support shoe had been replaced with a bandage. The hoof would have to grow to at least three times that length, a process that could take more than six months.

On October 10, Barbaro's cast and protective shoe were changed. His left rear hoof was gradually improving from laminitis. There was good growth along the quarters (closer to the heel) but there were still months of healing required for the front of the hoof.[18]

Barbaro reached another milestone on November 6, 2006 when his cast was removed permanently and replaced with a splinted bandage.[19] Barbaro's laminitic hoof showed no new problems, but several months of growth would have been necessary before it could be further diagnosed. Around December 12, Barbaro's bandage on his right hind leg was removed completely. This was announced during a press conference on Wednesday, December 13.

Further complications and death

Early in January 2007, the laminitic left hoof became the source of further complications. On January 10, another section of the hoof was surgically removed.[20] Updates over the next few days revealed that the cast had been reapplied to Barbaro's right hind leg for support, and that aggressive pain management and the use of the support sling had been resumed. Nevertheless, Barbaro's condition was better than it had been the previous July.

In another setback, Barbaro developed a deep abscess in his right hind foot, a problem generally caused by lack of grip exercise. Additional surgery was performed on January 27 to insert two steel pins into the healed bones of Barbaro's right foot as part of an external skeletal fixation device. This would allow the right foot to bear more weight, but the procedure was risky, with the major danger being that the bones might break again.[21][22] Later that same weekend, Barbaro's front hooves, which had remained healthy throughout the ordeal, displayed clear signs of laminitis due to him not being able to bear weight on his hind legs. Thus, Barbaro could not then comfortably put his weight on any of his legs.

Barbaro was euthanized on January 29, 2007, at around 10:30a.m. EST by decision of his owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who indicated that they felt that his pain was no longer manageable.[23]

For his efforts to save Barbaro, the Turf Publicists of America voted to award Richardson their 2006 Big Sport of Turfdom Award.


Monument and statue honoring Barbaro at entrance to Churchill Downs.

Barbaro was cremated shortly after he was euthanized. On January 29, 2008 it was announced that his remains would be interred in front of an entrance to Churchill Downs, and that a bronze statue of Barbaro would be placed atop his remains. The Jacksons chose to place his remains outside of both Churchill Downs and the adjacent Kentucky Derby Museum to allow his many admirers to pay their respects without having to pay an admission fee.[24][25]

The Barbaro Sculpture, created by Alexa King, was unveiled April 26, 2009 at Churchill Downs, the week preceding the Kentucky Derby.[26]

Gulfstream Park established scholarships to the University of Florida with an initial total funding of $30,000 for two fourth-year students in Veterinary Medicine and one graduate student in equine veterinary research.[27]

Barbaro also inspired a large anonymous donation to the New Bolton Center, allowing the establishment of the Barbaro Fund to aid the treatment and care of large animals.

In 2006, a Limited Edition Ty Beanie Babies Barbaro Beanie plushie was released. The plushie is 7 inches tall, 8 inches long and wears Barbaro's No. 8 on a pink saddle cloth.

In 2007, Breyer Animal Creations released a Barbaro model that includes a Certificate of Authenticity from his owners, jockey, and main doctor at the New Bolton Center.

The Jacksons have endowed a chair for equine disease research at the University of Pennsylvania's veterinary school.[28]

In honor of Barbaro's valiant fight against his injuries in the 2006 Preakness Stakes, NTRA has established the NTRA Charities, Barbaro Memorial Fund. This fund will focus on Equine Health and Safety, which will include research to find a cure for laminitis, the disease that ultimately led to Barbaro's death.

Public reaction

After his breakdown in the Preakness, Barbaro became the object of public affection. His stall at the New Bolton Center was decorated with many thousands of Get Well cards (including a 7 by 72 feet (2.1 m × 21.9 m) card from fans at the Belmont Stakes), and flowers and presents sent in by fans. Others sent in items meant to help his recovery, such as Christian medallions and holy water. His condition was reported by news organizations on a daily basis.

Over the course of Barbaro's treatment and after his death, there were sections of the media[who?] that felt that Barbaro did not merit the amount of attention that he was receiving from either his supporters or the media. Others suggested that Barbaro had demonstrated a disposition that might enable him to survive and in time become a breeding stallion.[29] Time magazine commented that despite the difficulties, Barbaro's fight was inspiring and that the hope for a near-miracle was not pointless.[30]


Pedigree of Barbaro
dk. b/br. 1985
b. 1969
Hail To Reason
br. 1958
dk. b/br. 1959
Andover Way
dk. b/br. 1978
His Majesty
b. 1968
Flower Bowl
On The Trail
b. 1964
Golden Trail
La Ville Rouge
b. 1996
Carson City
ch. 1987
Mr. Prospector
b. 1970
Raise a Native
Gold Digger
Blushing Promise
b. 1982
Blushing Groom
Summertime Promise
La Reine Rouge
b. 1978
King's Bishop
b. 1969
Round Table
Silver Betsy
b. 1971
Silver Abbey

Barbaro has four full brothers, three of which have raced, Nicanor (retired), Lentenor (retired), and Margano.

Racing career

Date Race Track Location Distance Surface Condition Finish
October 4, 2005 Maiden Delaware Park Wilmington, Delaware 1 mi. Turf Firm 1st
November 19, 2005 Laurel Futurity Laurel Park Racecourse Laurel, Maryland 1116 mi. Turf Firm 1st
January 1, 2006 Tropical Park Derby Calder Race Course Miami Gardens, Florida 118 mi. Turf Firm 1st
February 4, 2006 Holy Bull Stakes Gulfstream Park Hallandale Beach, Florida 118 mi. Dirt Sloppy 1st
April 1, 2006 Florida Derby Gulfstream Park Hallandale Beach, Florida 118 mi. Dirt Fast 1st
May 6, 2006 Kentucky Derby Churchill Downs Louisville, Kentucky 114 mi. Dirt Fast 1st
May 20, 2006 Preakness Stakes Pimlico Race Course Baltimore, Maryland 1316 mi. Dirt Fast DNF, injury



Several books have been written about Barbaro. In 2007, HarperCollins published Barbaro: A Nation's Love Story written by Pamela K. Brodowsky and Tom Philbin. Barbaro, Smarty Jones & Ruffian: The People's Horses, written by Linda Hanna was published in 2008 by Middle Atlantic Press as was My Guy Barbaro: A Jockey's Journey Through Love, Triumph, and Heartbreak with America's Favorite Horse written by Edgar Prado, Barbaro's Derby-winning jockey, co-written by John Eisenberg and published by HarperCollins.

Feature film

In 2007 Universal Pictures announced director Peter Berg would produce and direct a feature film entitled Gone Like the Wind, based on an article published in Vanity Fair by Buzz Bissinger. Berg and Bissinger previously worked together on Friday Night Lights. Sarah Aubrey was announced as co-producer. The film was shelved indefinitely in favor of the Peter Berg-directed Battleship.[33]

See also


  1. ^ Smiley, Jane (2007), "Barbaro, The Heart in the Winner's Circle: Time Line", The Washington Post, 30 Jan, 2007.
  2. ^ "Barbaro makes Derby his sixth victory in six starts". ESPN, May 7, 2006.
  3. ^ Maryland's Chief Veterinarian, David G. Zipf, personally attested to Barbaro's fitness
  4. ^ Bob Costas on the television special Barbaro: A Nation's Horse states that there were more than 20 breaks
  5. ^ "Explainer: Why a Broken Leg Is Bad News for a Horse" Slate, May 22, 2006
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Derby winner Barbaro undergoes surgery" Archived May 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. AP, May 22, 2006.
  8. ^ "Tim Woolley Horseracing News". Archived from the original on July 10, 2006. Retrieved 2006.
  9. ^ "After Successful Surgery, Barbaro's Chances Remain 'Coin Toss'" Archived 2006-06-16 at the Wayback Machine. The Blood-Horse, May 23, 2006.
  10. ^ "Barbaro surgery successful, Derby winner begins road to recovery". AP, May 22, 2006.
  11. ^ Vets lose confidence in Barbaro's recovery; laminitis hits July 13
  12. ^ "Doctors Say Barbaro's Life Is at Risk Due to an Inflammation in His Left Hind hoof"[permanent dead link] Associated Press, July 14, 2006.
  13. ^ Barbaro doing 'much better' July 14, 2006
  14. ^ Veterinarian: Barbaro's right hind leg healing well August 1, 2006
  15. ^ Barbaro goes out to graze Archived March 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine August 15, 2006
  16. ^ Barbaro no longer needs support sling August 17, 2006
  17. ^ Penn Veterinary Medicine (2006-08-28). "Barbaro has cast change". Archived from the original on 2007-02-04. Retrieved .
  18. ^ Barbaro's condition gradually improving[permanent dead link] Associated Press, October 10, 2006
  19. ^ After cast removed, Barbaro uses 'all of his legs quite well'[permanent dead link] "The Baltimore Sun", November 7, 2006
  20. ^ Barbaro suffers setback Archived January 17, 2007, at the Wayback Machine January 10, 2007
  21. ^ Barbaro has another significant setback[permanent dead link] January 28
  22. ^ Latest surgery on right hind leg marks new setback, January 29, 2007
  23. ^ Barbaro euthanized Monday morning January 29, 2007
  24. ^ Graves, Will (2008-01-29). "Barbaro's ashes and bronze statue to be placed at Churchill Downs". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved .
  25. ^ Barbaro at Find a Grave
  26. ^ "Churchill Downs Unveils Barbaro Statue".
  27. ^ Welsch, Mike (2007-03-10). "Barbaro inspires scholarship fund". Daily Racing Form. Archived from the original on 2008-01-25.
  28. ^ Jacksons give $3M for research Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine February 13, 2007
  29. ^ "Poise on the track may save horse's life" Archived April 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine The Baltimore Sun, May 21, 2006
  30. ^ Time Magazine (2007-01-29). "Barbaro: Was It All Worth It?". Time. Archived from the original on 9 February 2007. Retrieved .
  31. ^ Barbaro Stakes to Debut at Pimlico in May 2007 After Maryland Jockey Club Renames Sir Barton Stakes Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine December 20, 2006
  32. ^ Xchanger finds winning formula in Barbaro S. - NTRA Archived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^

External links

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