In 2006, the most famous horse in America was Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. He captured the imagination and attention span of the American public by dying. For some strange reason, Barbaro was mourned, while thousands of other thoroughbreds and quarter horses that go through the same traumas that Barbaro did die unmourned and uncelebrated. According to a 2008 report by The New York Times , about 24 race horses die on tracks across America every day. And yet only Barbaro received such massive public sympathy.
It could be argued that Barbaro was so mourned because he was a champion, while most other race horses who die from race-related injuries are duds. Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby by an impressive six lengths but then went on to shatter his hind leg in the Preakness. He spent the last months of his life at Pennsylvania’s innovative New Bolton Center.
Barbaro was an impressive looking thoroughbred in a breed known for producing beautiful specimens. Although he was not physically mature when he died, he stood 17 hands tall at the withers and sported prominent musculature. A bright bay, he had a classically handsome profile and a white star. He ran without blinkers.
Barbaro was bred in Pennsylvania. He was a son of the top American sire Dynaformer, another large, muscular bay. His mother was a bay Carson City daughter named La Ville Rogue. He was inbred 4 X 5 to the legendary stallion Nashua. Barabro also contained a highly unusual oddity in his pedigree – he was in no way related to Northern Dancer, the most dominant stallion of the twentieth century. Some argue that Barbaro’s inbreeding may have doomed the colt before he was ever foaled.
Barabaro was foaled on April 29, 2003. He had just recently turned three years old when he won the Kentucky Derby. His breeders, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, decided to keep the colt and placed him under the care of former champion show jumping legend Michael Matz. He won his very first race at Delaware Park on October 4, 2005. He would only race one more time as a two year old and skipped the lucrative Breeder’s Cup.
It wasn’t until the Kentucky Derby that Barbaro caught national attention, even though he had won three previous races earlier in the year. Under jockey Edgar Prado, Barbaro trounced the field by six and a half lengths. Expected to easily win the Preakness, Barbaro burst out of the gate before the official start. He was pulled up and sent back to the starting gate. A few seconds after the official start, three bones in his right hind leg shattered. Although surgery on the leg was successful, Barbaro developed laminitis in December. Unable to stand, Barbaro was euthanized in January 29, 2007.