Racing: American hero Barbaro loses fight for life

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The Independent Online

One of the fairytales of the modern Turf came to a brutal end yesterday when Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner, lost his long battle with injury.

Barbaro's runaway success at Churchill Downs in May itself struck an emotional chord with the American public because his trainer, Michael Matz, had won their hearts as an Olympic medallist who had once saved children from a plane crash.

But the horse himself then wrested their affections with a poignant crisis of his own, breaking down just after leaving the stalls in the Preakness Stakes.

The crippled champion was left hobbling grotesquely in front of the packed grandstand, prompting a national vigil as he underwent surgery and gradually recuperated. The bay colt underwent a five-hour operation that fused two joints.

At the New Jersey veterinary hospital where his shattered ankle was treated, his stall was bedecked with flowers and cards. Sheikh Mohammed even sent him holy water from the River Jordan.

All these heartfelt gestures have now proved fruitless. Barbaro suffered a variety of complications - including the discovery of an abcess last week - and yesterday it was decided that he should be put down.

"We just reached a point where it was going to be difficult for him to go on without pain," the horse's co-owner Roy Jackson said. "It was the right thing to do. We said all along if there was a situation where it would become more difficult for him, then it would be time."