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Babaro remembered in book on remarkable life

April 3, 2011

More on Barbaro

The lives of Alex Brown and Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro crossed paths in a most unexpected way.

Alex Brown and Barbaro.

A new book on Barbaro explores the legacy of the ill-fated racehorse.

The story of Barbaro captured the horse world during 2006 as the derby winner fought back from a shattered rear leg, suffered moments after the start of the Preakness Stakes.

Staff at the New Bolton Center at Pennsylvania University provided round-the-clock care for the thoroughbred as horse lovers around the world offered their wishes and prayers for a successful outcome.

Among them was Alex Brown, who managed at the time. The website became a hub of activity for fans of Barbaro.

Sadly, Babaro did not make it. The veterinary specialists managed to heal his shattered leg but it was ultimately laminitis that took his life. He was euthanised on January 29, 2007.

Brown embarked on his own journey that year, to do additional research for a book on Barbaro.

In the following two years, that journey led Brown to work at seven racetracks for seven different trainers. During that time he also covered the Triple Crown race series for the New York Times.

The end result is "Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and his Legacy".

The book explores Barbaro's life and legacy, and examines whether he was a great racehorse. It investigates why he was so inspirational.

More than 100 people were interviewed for the book, including Barbaro's trainer Michael Matz and some of his team; Dr Dean Richardson and some of the New Bolton Center team; media that cover horse racing, horsemen involved in the 2006 Triple Crown, and people that worked at the tracks where Barbaro ran.

Barbaro's shattered hind leg after it was stabilised.

The book also includes 164 photographs in a photo essay that retells the entire story.

ESPN's Jeannine Edwards wrote the foreword. Co-owner Gretchen Jackson wrote the afterword.

The story of Barbaro, who was born on April 29, 2003, began well before the 2006 Kentucky Derby.

He reeled off five easy wins to set himself up for the 2006 derby. He was undefeated, yet there were still doubters.

Barbaro wowed everyone who saw him in the flesh as he prepared for the derby.

His final workout was sensational.

In the race itself, he simply crushed the field to win by the largest winning margin in 60 years, with the fastest final quarter since Secretariat in 1973.

His jockey, Edgar Prado, did not even need to resort to his stick for extra urging; Barbaro was just that good.

Only the fifth undefeated Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro seemed destined to be our first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Barbaro trained well leading up to the Preakness and arrived at Pimlico with the swagger of a rock star.

After a false start, Barbaro shattered his hind leg in the early part of the race.

It was viewed on national television by an audience devastated by this rapid turn of events.

Rather than euthanise the colt, it was decided to send him to New Bolton Center in an attempt to save his life.

Eight months later, Barbaro was euthanised, as laminitis steadfastly refused to release its grip.

Dr Richardson and Barbaro on December 20, 2006. © Kathy Freeborn
"Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and his Legacy" puts his racetrack record within the context of some of the greatest racehorses to ever run.

It explores why Barbaro became so inspirational to so many people and why his fans turned their energy into doing good things in his name - good work that has persisted well beyond Barbaro's all-too-brief life.

It also looks at important issues raised by the Barbaro saga, including laminitis research, racehorse retirement and horse slaughter.

Brown has had a long involvement in racing. He rode as an amateur jockey, and galloped horses for leading trainers, including Steve Asmussen, Michael Dickinson and Barclay Tagg.

He has also had an academic career, which included pioneering work in social media.

His experience in social media marketing combined with his horsemanship to uniquely position him to be part of this journey, and to tell the story from the inside.

He is originally from Cheshire, England, and now resides in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania.



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