Light a Candle for Barbaro

Let's go off-topic for a moment, let's give the law a rest for a few more hours, because all I have been able to think about since Saturday afternoon is what happened to Barbaro, the magnificant thoroughbred race horse who broke down in front of all the world during the running of the Preakness Stakes. In one moment, the horse went from being a legitimate contender for racing's Triple Crown, at the top of his sport, to being crippled-- and perhaps fatally injured. Even though it's a story about a horse, the story of Barbaro's rise and sudden fall is a story that slaps us in the face and reminds us all how fragile is the balance between life and death, success and failure.

That's why everyone is still talking about Barbaro, two full days after that awful race, and no one is talking about the winner of the Preakness, a horse named Bernardi, who now goes into history as a footnote as much as a champion. Ask people today about Foolish Pleasure and they are less likely to tell you he won the Kentucky Derby in 1975 as they are to tell you that he was a two-horse duel with the great filly Ruffian when she broke down and had to be destroyed on the track. There are winners each year in racing's Triple Crown races. Catastrophes come around only occasionally. That's why we are so much more likely to remember the latter and forget the former.

Someone wise once said that there are more good horses in the world than there are good people. But anyone who saw that race, and the emotions and courage and skill it invoked in the main human players in the drama, knows that there were good people and good horses both on Saturday. From Barbaro's jockey, Edgar Prado, who immediately sensed something was wrong and pulled up the horse, to the track veterinarian, who immediately put Barbaro's shattered leg into an air cast, to the doctors who heroically performed surgery on the horse for over seven hours on Sunday, to the countless scores of ordinary people who have taken time since to send their good wishes to the horse's owner and trainer, the racing community and really the rest of the nation have shown a sense of class and purpose that is as encouraging as it is sad.

As a member of that racing community-- harness racing for me-- my son and I on Saturday lit a candle for Barbaro as I explained what the horse might have to go through to live to see the summer. It is hard on children when animals die. And it is hard on them when they see animals hurt and scared, as Barbaro was, when he was being soothed by his handlers on the track. But children, lke the rest of us, have to learn that even the mighty fall sometime, even the strong get weak; even the swifest slow down, and even the good days can turn bad. On the other hand, as I told my boy, even the lame may one day walk; and even the sick may one day heal. That's what the Cohen Boys are rooting for as we root for a horse we never met and saw race only once.

In the meantime, if you are so inclined, you can send a message of support here to Barbaro's human clan.

By  |  May 22, 2006; 5:45 PM ET
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To the Cohen Boys -- Thank you for your post, and now, nearly three months later, the reward for your cheering on Barbaro can be found at the U of PA vet school website: The video of Barbaro walking outside and grazing for the first times since his injury. I hope you all enjoy the watching of two champions, the horse Barbaro, who has proven himself a true hero, and Dr. Dean Richardson, who has done the same. Peace -- SH

Posted by: Susan | August 14, 2006 05:02 PM

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