Barbaro Fans Mourn Racehorse

The death of Barbaro has left his online community of fans bereft. The racehorse was euthanized Monday after months of efforts to rehabilitate him from a leg injury at last year's Preakness Stakes.

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Well, if you have been listening to NPR at all over the last 24 hours, you have no doubt heard that Kentucky Derby champion Barbaro was euthanized yesterday, and, well, that news hit NPR's Luke Burbank a little hard. He's here now. Luke.

LUKE BURBANK: Yeah it did, Madeleine. I don't know if you remember, but a couple weeks ago, I did this story about all these people who were following Barbaro's progress online kind of obsessively.

BRAND: Yeah, it was a great story.

BURBANK: And I started out like most people, I kind of wanted to make fun of these people that were so obsessed; but then I actually talked to them, and they were so sweet and nice that they kind of won me over a little bit. In fact, there was this one woman, her name's Mercy Turano. She's a grandmother from Florida. And she stuck out to me because she loved her some Barbaro.

Ms. MERCY TURANO (Barbaro Fan): I've developed a relationship with this horse. My husband was like, my wife is in love with this horse.

BURBANK: So anyway, Madeleine, when I heard yesterday that they had put Barbaro down, I immediately thought of Mercy Toronto, and so I called her.

Hi, Mercy, how are you doing?

Ms. TURANO: Hi, Luke. Just fine, thank you.

BURBANK: So how did you find out that Barbaro had been put down?

Ms. TURANO: Actually, I was at the hospital. My granddaughter was having her adenoids taken out. And I called my husband to tell him that she had come out OK of surgery, and he says well, I have bad news. My Blackberry just told me that Barbaro was euthanized. He kind of choked back a little bit, believe it or not.

BURBANK: And this is a guy who thought you were kind of crazy for how much you loved Barbaro.

Ms. TURANO: Oh yeah, and it's funny because when I did get home and I was crying, I said I can't believe I'm crying for a horse I've never even pet nor met. He goes: He taught you a lot. He deserves tears. I cannot tell you how many people e-mailed me from around the country. The Candle Organization had over 22,000 candles for Barbaro yesterday afternoon.

BURBANK: This is that Web site where you can go and actually light a candle kind of in cyberspace.

Ms. TURANO: Correct.

BURBANK: And there was 22,000 cyber-candles lit for Barbaro?

Ms. TURANO: Yes, yes, from 57 countries. I didn't even know there was 57 countries in the world.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: When you got up this morning, did you have the reflexive thought to go to the computer and check on Barbaro?

Ms. TURANO: When I first woke up this morning, I didn't even want to look at the front page. But then when I did get in to work, I thought you know, maybe they're posting something. So then I thought let me get on and see what's going on.

BURBANK: So you managed to go without your Barbaro fix this morning, but by the time you got to work, you were kind of right back...

Ms. TURANO: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I did, yeah. And it'll take a while to go away. I hope I never get rid of my Barbaro fix. It's a good fix.

BURBANK: Come on, Madeleine, how can you not love this woman?

BRAND: Love that woman. And what about you? Do you check the Barbaro Web site?

BURBANK: I spent three hours yesterday trying to get to the message board, and it was crashed because there were so many people. I was very relieved last night to see that it was back up, and I did spend some time reading it.

BRAND: OK. And now you've become one of them. NPR's Luke Burbank, newly minted Barbaro fan. Thanks, Luke.

BURBANK: Thanks, Madeleine.

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