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Feb 09, 2007

Barbaro - may his memory inspire

By: By Don Agriss - Horse Racing Editor, SPORTS NETWORK

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The end came suddenly. Though the medical staff warned of a possible unhappy finish it was still unexpected that Barbaro would be euthanized just two days after his latest procedure.

Barbaro will be remembered as the name of 2006 thoroughbred racing. In some ways the career ending injury he suffered in the Preakness Stakes made him more endearing than if he had been able to capture the Triple Crown.

Because animals cannot speak, we really don't know if the human attributes that are assigned to them are applicable. Horse people always talk about how race horses are just as much athletes as humans.

Barbaro won the 2006 Kentucky Derby so decisively that anything less than a Triple Crown sweep would have been a disappointment. However, disappointment quickly turned to despair during the Preakness Stakes.

The colt suffered a fracture to his right hind leg early in the running of the Preakness. The legend of Barbaro as a survivor started then and there. He made it through surgery the following day and fought on despite setbacks.

One of the main indicators of a horse's health is his appetite. Barbaro always had a good appetite during the eight months following the Preakness Stakes.

Dr. Dean Richardson, Barbaro's surgeon, indicated at the press conference hours after Barbaro's death that the colt had many good days during his recovery. It will always be debated whether it was correct that Barbaro was put through so much.

Just like the memories one has about a close relative or friend who dies, the ones about Barbaro will focus on the good times. Trainer Michael Matz approached the conditioning of Barbaro for the Kentucky Derby differently than most trainers.

Barbaro began 2006 with a win in a turf stakes. Then he was switched to the dirt for the Holy Bull Stakes. Barbaro was given plenty of time between starts to recover and gain strength. Remember it had been 50 years since a horse won the Run for the Roses off a five week break.

The record book will show that Barbaro lost one race in his seven start career. He never lost a race that he finished.

When the biography of Barbaro is written it could easily be called "Fighter". He fought for better than eight months to live.

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