How We Failed Barbaro

In breakdowns, racing has a massive, deadly serious problem, and we all know it. The Thoroughbred industry has a moral obligation to horses and jockeys to pursue solutions on a grand scale and with the utmost urgency. We must summon the best minds
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(Reprinted from Bloodhorse.com)

Oxford Prince died in front of me, a breath before the finish line at Timonium, some 25 years ago. His leg had broken, sending him into a ghastly tumble, his jockey kissing off the ground like a stone on a still pond. When the vet came, the colt lifted his leg obediently, and the cannon bone swung from its middle as if hinged. The needle came quickly, and Oxford Prince sank to the dirt and was gone.

What I had seen came as an explosion. I was a kid at the time, and though I knew of Ruffian’s death, I thought this kind of horror was a great rarity. I assumed that such a wrenching event would be huge news, spurring the soul-searching and reform that you see when an athlete dies in any other sport. But nothing happened. There was a sodden weight in the air, a quiet grief, yet the card proceeded with no comment, only a few remarks of "that’s racing." I sat against the rail and cried.

On Preakness day, as I watched Barbaro standing on the track, turning his ruined leg in plaintive circles, I thought of that day at Timonium. Now, as then, there is a stricken horse whose sport failed to prevent his injury. There is anguish, shibboleths of "that’s racing," and in a situation that screams for sweeping action to stop this from happening again, the familiar passive resignation. It was the same for Timely Writer, Go for Wand, Prairie Bayou, and so many others. We love and mourn our horses, yet our hands are largely idle

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Written by:

Laura Hillenbrand is the Eclipse Award-winning author of Seabiscuit

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