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Barbaro fought to the very end

January 30, 2007

Barbaro with Dr Richardson.
Barbaro is dead. The four-year-old colt who suffered a catastrophic leg injury in the Preakness Stakes last May, was euthanised early today (New Zealand time).

The Kentucky Derby winner was given his regular morning feed of grass while resting in his support sling. With his supporters and caregivers around him, he was then given the overdose of anaesthetic that ended his life.

Barbaro had bounced back from a number of serious complications during his recovery, with at one stage chief surgeon Dean Richardson describing his outlook as poor, after the development of serious laminitis in his uninjured hind leg.

However, Barbaro rebounded and appeared to be on the path to recovery, and on to what Richardson suggested would be a comfortable life.

The story of Barbaro grabbed international headlines and countless of thousands of people followed his progress intently, not only on this site, but on many others that provided regular updates.

Google News is now awash with stories of his death, many of them paying tribute to the champion. Just hours after his death, Google was carrying more than 4000 stories about the decision to end his life.

Horse discussion forums around the internet were awash with personal tributes to the champion. Many admitted to being in tears after reading of his death.

Barbaro's co-owner Roy Jackson said: "We just reached a point where it was going to be difficult for him to go on without pain.

"It was the right decision, it was the right thing to do. We said all along if there was a situation where it would become more difficult for him then it would be time."

The decision to euthanize Barbaro was made in consultation with Richardson. Those in key decision-making positions had always made it clear that they were determined that Barbaro would not be allowed to suffer.

Barbaro had reportedly not had a good night and, with the likelihood of more pain arising from his latest complication, the decision was made.

The Preakness winner had battled not only the shattered hind leg, but infections, at least one abscess, and laminitis in his uninjured right leg, which resulted in the removal of 80 per cent of the hoof.

Barbaro spent most of the last eight months in a stall, but in recent times, as his hind legs grew stronger, was able to walk in nearly pasture and eat grass.

He spent time in a sling to take the weight off his legs, but nevertheless remained in good spirits, and with a good appetite.

The horse's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, just last week tied for the Owner of the Year Award at the Eclipse Racing Awards - a fitting tribute to the dedication they showed to their horse. They also received a special award.

Roy Jackson said to Barbaro's many well-wishers: "I would say thank you for everything, and all your thoughts and prayers over the last eight months or so."

Barbaro was treated for his injury at the New Bolton Centre, 50km from Philadelphia.

The horse underwent a five-hour operation in which nearly 30 screws and a titanium plate were inserted to hold the three shattered bones together.

More surgery and cast changes were required during the rollercoaster road through the complications that arose, with the tide turning against Barbaro around January 10.

Further complications arose during the weekend after another abscess was discovered last week. Barbaro underwent surgery at the weekend during which two steel pins were inserted into a bone to eliminate all weight-bearing on the affected foot.

Many following the Barbaro story got a sense that the situation was becoming worrying - confirmed with news of the horse's death.

While Barbaro will be remembered for his brave fight after his accident, most will also remember him for his short but brilliant track career.

One of his legacies includes $US1.2 million collected since early June for the Barbaro Fund. The money was put toward needed equipment such as an operating room table, and a raft and sling for the same pool recovery Barbaro used after his surgeries.

The Jacksons had reportedly never been concerned about whether Barbaro would be able to breed, hoping only that he would be able to enjoy a comfortable farm life.

Barbaro, born and raised at Sanborn Chase at Springmint Farm in Kentucky, showed remarkable track form, culminating in a fantastic six and a half length win in the Kentucky Derby. He had demolished one of the best fields lined up for the event in years.

His winning margin had not been seen since Assault's win in 1946.

The horse was earmarked for Triple Crown glory, but the tragedy in the Preakness brought the dream to a devastating end.

The effort put in to save Barbaro's life was unquestionably one of the great efforts made to rehabilitate a horse.

For the record, his career ended with stake earnings of $US2.302 million, with six wins from seven starts.



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