Barbaro’s Legacy

The effort to save the fallen champion shows how far equine medicine has come in recent years. And how far it still has to go

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Medicine does not advance in a straight line. There are always setbacks, and they increase knowledge and awareness. Maybe, instead of putting down a horse with a broken leg, owners might remember how much was done for Barbaro and "wonder if there's anything we can do for our horse," said Bramlage, the surgeon from Rood & Riddle hospital. Perhaps other veterinarians will see how effective locking compression plates are.

Barbaro's greatest impact will surely be the spotlight he has cast on laminitis. The key is to learn how to prevent it, and researchers believe major progress toward solving its mysteries could be made with $10 million or more, Moore said. Joan C. Hendricks, dean of Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine, said she is angry that so many horse owners still lose their animals to laminitis. "I want it over," she added.

Reaching that goal became easier in mid-February, when Penn received a $3 million gift from the Jacksons, who are both Penn graduates, to endow a chair for the study of equine disease. That position will be "the cornerstone" of a campaign against laminitis, a school spokesman said. The endowed chair will bear the name Dean Richardson.

The Jacksons were still contemplating what sort of memorial to erect to Barbaro, who was cremated. We will never know for certain whether he would have gone on to be one of the truly exceptional racehorses. But the Jacksons still have the memory of a great day in May. "It's just amazing that something we bred won it," Gretchen said. They still have the trophy, and they still have the oil painting that was beside it, done by famed horse painter Fred Stone. It shows Barbaro, with Edgar Prado aboard, flying down the track at Churchill Downs.

Steve Twomey, who has reported for several newspapers over three decades, now teaches journalism at New York University.


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