Though he lived a rather short life, Barbaro was an outstanding horse that certainly earned his place in the winner’s circle. He was sired by Dynaformer and his dam was La Ville Rouge out of Carson City – a bloodline which showed not only in his speed, but also in his ultra-fine athletic appearance. The striking bay was bred by Lael Stables and owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson. Under the expert guidance of trainer Michael Matz, Barbaro started the 2006 Kentucky Derby as an undefeated horse, but it was his natural talent and striking pace that carried him over the finish line seven lengths ahead of the rest of the field – a feat he accomplished without even reaching his peak speed.
The story of Barbaro is a rather tragic one. While he started life well with good breeding and a good trainer who took the time to let him ease into the life of a thoroughbred racehorse, his life was cut short by tragedy when he was just four years old. His win at the Kentucky Derby would have almost certainly been the start of greatness were it not for what took place only months later. As if an ominous sign of the catastrophe that was about to happen, Barbaro broke through the starting gate prematurely at the 2006 Preakness Stakes after accidently disengaging the magnetic gate bars with his nose. He was examined by a vet and then reloaded. In minutes the race started and it seemed at first that Barbaro would take the field. However, just a short distance into the race Barbaro started to struggle. He’d managed to break his leg in three places and was, in effect, running on three legs. His jockey quickly brought him to a gentle stop and hopped off to provide the injured horse’s body with support, allowing him to lean against his shoulder until track attendants arrived.
Despite the fact that the prognosis was bad, attempts were made to operate on Barbaro’s injuries. He was taken to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center for treatment since the center had the best specialized care available for an animal in his condition. As part of initial surgery Dr Dean Richardson performed a number of groundbreaking veterinary treatments on Barbaro’s damaged leg. Barbaro’s initial reaction to the treatment was good and he was given a 50% chance of recovery depending on what sort of complications might arise over time. After a short while Barbaro started to develop an abscess on one of his hind legs which eventually developed into laminitis due to the shift of weight brought about by his injured leg. Initial corrective measures went well and by the end of 2006 it seemed that Barbaro would recover.
Unfortunately, a few months later things started going tragically wrong. Barbaro developed laminitis in more than just one leg and his pain was unmanageable. As a result he was euthanized on 29 January 2007. Much of his tragic end was covered in the media and prayers went out across America for Barbaro’s recovery. Thus, even though he did not enjoy a particularly long racing career he was well known and loved by millions. His major racing wins include the Laurel Futurity, the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby. It has also been surmised that, had Barbaro not suffered such an unfortunate accident, he may well have proved to be one of the fastest horses in history – surpassing even Affirmed and Secretariat to become one of the fastest American racehorses of all time.