Derby Winner Barbaro Loses Fight for Life

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Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was put down Monday after a long medical battle. The 4-year-old racehorse, injured at the Preakness, had so many leg problems he could not be made comfortable to heal.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The long effort to provide medical treatment to Barbaro has ended. That horse thrilled the nation with his heart stopping victory at the Kentucky Derby. And he seemed the best contender in a quarter of a century for racing's Triple Crown. But Barbaro shattered his leg during the Preakness Stakes, and he was euthanized yesterday after one too many complications from his injury.

NPR's Julie Rovner has more.

JULIE ROVNER: Many times over the past eight months, Barbaro's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and his lead veterinarian, Dean Richardson, gathered before the media in a small auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center outside Philadelphia. But always before, the mood had been at least hopeful. Yesterday, it was merely sad. Richardson said, in the end, the decision to put the horse down was not all that difficult.

Dr. DEAN RICHARDSON (Chief of Surgery, New Bolton Center, University of Pennsylvania): We stated, and we meant what we said, that if we couldn't control his discomfort, we wouldn't go on. And that's why the decision was made.

JULIE ROVNER: For these past eight months, Barbaro has been literally performing a balancing act. He rested mostly on his left hind leg while his broken right one healed. That caused the left foot to develop laminitis, a serious and often fatal inflammation. While that tried to heal, he stood more on his right hind foot, which caused an abscess to form. That required surgery Saturday to fashion a device that literally left him standing on his right leg bone, the one that only recently was broken.

And that wasn't the end of his problems, said Richardson.

Dr. RICHARDSON: The biggest thing that happened in the last 24 hours is that he did develop fairly severe laminitis in both front feet. So that essentially left him with not a good leg to stand on, and that was just not going to work out in the long run.

JULIE ROVNER: Barbaro's owners took pains to thank not just Barbaro's doctors but also the public for their outpouring of well wishes. Roy Jackson said while he's sad now, the experience hasn't been wholly negative.

Mr. ROY JACKSON (Co-owner, Barbaro): We hope that a lot has been learned by this case that will help other horses in the future.

JULIE ROVNER: One beneficiary is the New Bolton Center itself. The vet school has raised more than a million dollars so far through its Barbaro Fund. But there will never be any little Barbaros, the colt was never bred and U.S. racing rules forbid artificial insemination.

Julie Rovner, NPR News.

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