Friday, February 02, 2007

Barbaro loses the battle.

Barbaro loses the battle for life. Barbaro was euthenized in January of 2007 after an eight month long battle to survive the complication related to his shattered ankle. We will never know if he was truly the best three year old of 2006. What we do know is that he will be one of the most remembered horses of this decade. Not necessarily because he was a Kentucky Derby winner, but also because of the public, tragic end of a champion thoroughbred race horse. He will be remembered in the history books as the Kentucky Derby winner of 2006, that is for sure. After all, "The Derby" is the most prestigious, sought out race in the United States.

Does this hurt the sport of horse racing, does it help or does it change anything? Well that depends on who you talk to and everyone has there own perspective. My thoughts as a thoroughbred trainer, nothing has changed. In my profession, Barbaro touch our hearts. We all want a Barbaro in our barn. If a trainer in this business is not in awe of such a great athletic display by this horse, then he doesn't love the sport. You have to respect the horses power and show of class, whether you trained him or not. Sure, the best horse does not always win the Kentucky Derby, but he was the best that day and that's what counts. But we see racing everyday and horses break down on occasion. Unfortunately it is part of the sport, as injuries occur in human sports as well. It hurts to see an animal end his career whether a stakes winner or a cheap claimer.

As for the average spectator, who is far removed from the backside of the race track, opinions may differ. Some will say horse racing is cruel, period. Some say it was inhumane to keep the horse alive to suffer for eight months for a chance at a breeding syndication. Some will just understand that it was a just an unfortunate tragedy. As far as cruel goes, these equine athletes are of the best taken care of of any pet or sport animal. They are groomed daily and kept under a blanket when necessary. They are fed very nutritious diets. They are exercised. Their legs are massaged and rubbed down with liniment oils. Their feet are cleaned daily. Basically all trainers know, a happy, fit, sound, nourished horse will perform at their best. Much money is invested in these horses, so why would they not be cared for and protected so well? As far as keeping him alive, the owners have respect for their champion thoroughbred and I am sure they feel like he is part of the family. The vets are in practice because they love animals. Everything was done to keep this horse comfortable and pain free through the whole ordeal. They were just simply trying to save this beautiful animal's life. After all, he earned more than 2.2 million dollars and won 4 out of his 5 starts. He deserved every chance he could get at saving his life. Most who know about horse racing, understand this was an unforeseen injury that just happened to occur to the most famous horse, at the time, in front of millions of spectators.

So will this change the industry of thoroughbred horse racing? In my professional opinion, probably not. As soon as another Triple Crown winner comes around, Barbaro will fade as a tragedy and primarily be remembered as the Kentucky Derby winner of 2006.