Sports Outside the Beltway

Bernardini Wins Preakness; Barbaro Hurt

From AP

BALTIMORE – Bernardini won the Preakness on Saturday in a race marred by an apparent injury to favorite and Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Before the race, Barbaro came out of the starting gate early. No foul was called. But within the first 20 seconds of the race, he appeared to take a bad step and listed right.

Replays showed that it was his right hind leg.

Bernadini’s win stopped what looked like a sure triple crown winner in Barbaro.

I can’t recall a major racing horse injury like this in at least 30 years.

Now we can only hope Barbaro can be saved. My father used to own standardbred race horses. Standardbreds and thoroughbreds race differently but the horses are much the same too. They are very fragile animals.

For example, my father owned a horse named Fast Clip. He won major stakes races and almost a quarter million dollars between 1971-74 before being retired to stud. In July 1972 an inexperienced groom wrapped Clip’s bandages too tight, cutting off his circulation in his ankles. Fast Clip didn’t race again for almost a month.

Medicine has improved, so Barbaro’s chances of being saved are better today than 30 years ago when Ruffian had to be destroyed.

Horses aren’t the brightest animals which can complicate their care after being injured too.

A report on NBC just said Barbaro has breaks above and below the ankle. That is not good news.

Barbaro’s racing career is over. He is still a valuable property, for as a Derby winner he is worth millions as a stud horse for breeding.

Additional note- Sometimes I wonder if horse owners don’t just retire a horse after a big stakes win like the Kentucky Derby. The risk of injury is always out there. Weigh the risk of more racing versus serious injury. Almost all winners of any thoroughbred triple crown race are retired before year’s end as is.

Correction- This kind of injury has happened more often in the past than I thought.

Thoroughbreds have broken down in the past in big races: In the 1993 Preakness, Union City broke down and was euthanized; in the 1993 Belmont Stakes, Preakness winner Prairie Bayou broke down; in the 1999 Belmont Stakes, with Charismatic trying to win the Triple Crown, he was pulled up while finishing third with a fractured ankle; Go For Wand broke down in the stretch of the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and was euthanized;

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I saw the injury when it happened: it indeed looked bad. I’d hate to be the owner of Barbaro right now – from elation that he’d won the Derby in such convincing fashion to this: a chance that the horse won’t make it out of all of this alive.

Posted by B. Minich, PI | May 20, 2006 | 11:07 pm | Permalink

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