Saturday, May 20, 2006

'Say a prayer' — Barbaro hurt at Preakness - Horse Racing -

I blog this with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes!

'Say a prayer' — Barbaro hurt at Preakness
Derby winner's life in jeopardy after double fracture; Bernardini wins
Horse racing editor
Updated: 7:31 p.m. CT May 20, 2006

BALTIMORE - A record crowd of 118,402 watched Barbaro’s run at Triple Crown glory, his racing career — and maybe his life — all end in a horrifying snap Saturday.

The Kentucky Derby winner broke his right rear ankle early in the Preakness Stakes and was quickly pulled up by jockey Edgar Prado.

The accident threatened the life of the 1-2 favorite and cast a pall over an impressive 5 ¼-length victory by Triple Crown newcomer Bernardini.

Prado, who just two weeks ago was celebrating an overpowering Derby victory aboard Barbaro, was in tears moments after he gingerly pulled up Barbaro in front of the grandstand and then jumped off to ensure that the horse didn’t aggravate the injury. Barbaro’s trainer, Michael Matz, grimaced and rushed from his family to tend to his injured horse as the rest of the field continued to circle the Pimlico racetrack.

Dr. Larry Bramlage, attending veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said the strapping colt suffered a fracture above and below the ankle and would require “pretty major surgery” at the New Bolton Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania. He said the injury could be life-threatening if there was significant damage to soft tissue that interrupted the blood supply to the lower limb.

“It’s a serious fracture. This will require pretty major surgery,” Bramlage said. “Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer. His career is over. This is very life-threatening.

“Under the best circumstances, we will try to save him as a stallion.”

The accident burst the celebratory atmosphere at Pimlico and rendered the first victory in a Triple Crown race for Darley Stable, owned by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and his family — almost an afterthought.

The winner, who handed trainer Tom Albertrani and jockey Javier Castellano a Preakness victory in their first start in the race, paid $27.80 to fans who thought he could upend the Derby winner.

Bernardini’s upset also extended horse racing’s record drought without a Triple Crown winner to at least 29 years.

The start of the race was delayed for nearly two minutes after Barbaro broke through the starting gate before the bell, forcing outriders to restrain him and take him back to the starting gate. The 6 ½-length winner of the Derby appeared unfazed by the experience, and Bramlage said later that the incident likely had nothing to do with the injury.

When the gates opened for the full field, Barbaro broke alertly and Prado guided the son of Dynaformer to his familiar stalking position about three lengths behind pace-setter Like Now.

But after traveling close to a furlong — an eighth of a mile — Barbaro took a bad step and then quickly dropped back, flailing with his injured rear ankle.

The 39-year-old Prado may have saved the colt’s life by reacting instantly and keeping his mount balanced as he pulled up to prevent him from putting more weight on the limb than necessary. Once he got Barbaro halted past the Pimlico finish line, he jumped off and grabbed the reins to try and keep the horse from panicking and exacerbating the injury.

Prado declined to discuss the incident immediately afterward. He later issued a statement saying, “He took a bad step and I can’t really tell you what happened. I heard a nose about 100 yards into the race and pulled him right up.”

Matz, the 55-year-old former Olympian who engineered Barbaro’s impressive Derby victory two weeks earlier, sprinted from the owner’s enclosure to his horse’s side as an equine ambulance pulled up.

As this horrifying spectacle was unfolding, the rest of the field continued on its way, with many of the jockeys saying later that they were unaware of the accident.

Bernardini, who broke from the 8 post, secured a stalking position outside and behind Like Now and his closest pursuers, Sweetnorthernsaint and Brother Derek as the field rounded the turn and headed up the backstretch.

Castellano moved the son of A.P. Indy inside rounding the far turn, as Like Now and Brother Derek began to weaken, and then back out to give him room to chase Sweetnorthernsaint with a quarter mile left to go.

Under a left-handed whip from the 28-year-old Venezuelan-born rider, Bernardini quickly collared that rival and opened a clear advantage in midstretch that he lengthened to 5 ¼ lengths before passing the wire. Sweetnorthernsaint held on for second, six lengths in front of the late-running Hemingway’s Key.

“It’s very exciting for everyone, for me especially, to win the Preakness. It’s also very, very sad. It’s a big disappointment,” Castellano said.

Running time for the 1 3/16-mile race was 1:54.65, more than a second off the stakes record of 1:53 2/5 shared by Tank’s Prospect (1985) and Louis Quatorze (1996).

Bernardini’s connections were clearly pleased that they had fulfilled Sheikh Muhammed’s dream of winning an American Triple Crown race — albeit not his most coveted prize, the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s absolutely delighted,” stable manager John Ferguson said in describing a brief conversation with the sheikh, who he said was not able to attend because of commitments in his homeland. “I’m just very sorry he’s not here because he’s been toe the Preakness before … and he’s very aware of the fantastic day that the people of Baltimore put on.” Winning trainer Tom Albertrani said he didn’t see Barbaro break down."I saw Michael run by me and I knew something was wrong,” Albertrani said. “You feel very upset when you see something like that.”
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