KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. — Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized Monday after complications from his breakdown at the Preakness last May.
"We just reached a point where it was going to be difficult for him to go on without pain," co-owner Roy Jackson said. "It was the right decision, 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."
Roy and Gretchen Jackson were with Barbaro on Monday morning, with the owners making the decision in consultation with chief surgeon Dean Richardson.
It was a series of complications, including laminitis in the left rear hoof and a recent abscess in the right rear hoof, that proved to be too much for the gallant colt, whose breakdown brought an outpouring of support across the country.
"I would say thank you for everything, and all your thoughts and prayers over the last eight months or so," Jackson said to Barbaro's fans.
On May 20, Barbaro was rushed to the New Bolton Center, about 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia in Kennett Square, hours after shattering his right hind leg just a few strides into the Preakness Stakes. The bay colt underwent a five-hour operation that fused two joints, recovering from an injury most horses never survive. Barbaro lived for eight more months, though he never again walked with a normal gait.
The Kentucky Derby winner suffered a significant setback over the weekend, and surgery was required to insert two steel pins in a bone — one of three shattered eight months ago in the Preakness but now healthy — to eliminate all weight bearing on the ailing right rear foot.
The procedure on Saturday was a risky one, because it transferred more weight to the leg while the foot rests on the ground bearing no weight.
The leg was on the mend until the abscess began causing discomfort last week. Until then, the major concern was Barbaro's left rear leg, which developed laminitis in July, and 80 percent of the hoof was removed.
Richardson said Monday morning that Barbaro did not have a good night.
Brilliant on the race track, Barbaro always will be remembered for his brave fight for survival.
The story of the beloved 3-year-old bay colt's fight for life captured the fancy of millions and drew an outpouring of support unrivaled in sports.
When Barbaro broke down, his right hind leg flared out awkwardly as jockey Edgar Prado jumped off and tried to steady the ailing horse. Race fans at Pimlico wept. Within 24 hours the entire nation seemed to be caught up in a "Barbaro watch," waiting for any news on his condition.
Well-wishers young and old showed up at the New Bolton Center with cards, flowers, gifts, goodies and even religious medals for the champ, and thousands of e-mails poured into the hospital's Web site just for him.
"I just can't explain why everyone is so caught up in this horse," Roy Jackson, who owned the colt with his wife, Gretchen, has said time and again. "Everything is so negative now in the world, people love animals and I think they just happen to latch onto him."
Devoted fans even wrote Christmas carols for him, sent a wreath made of baby organic carrots and gave him a Christmas stocking.
Although the get-well cards and banners eventually will fade or be trashed, the biggest gift has been the $1.2 million raised since early June for the Barbaro Fund. The money is put toward needed equipment such as an operating room table, and a raft and sling for the same pool recovery Barbaro used after his surgeries.
The Jacksons spent tens of thousands of dollars hoping the best horse they ever owned would recover and be able to live a comfortable life on the farm — whether he was able to breed or not.
The couple, who own about 70 racehorses, broodmares and yearlings, and operate the 190-acre Lael Farm, have been in the horse business for 30 years, and never had a horse like Barbaro.
As the days passed, it seemed Barbaro would get his happy ending. As late as December, with the broken bones in his right hind leg nearly healed and his laminitis under control, Barbaro was looking good and relishing daily walks outside his intensive care unit.
But after months of upbeat progress reports, including talk that he might be headed home soon, news came Jan. 10 of a serious setback because of the laminitis. Richardson had to remove damaged tissue from Barbaro's left hind hoof, and the colt was placed back in a protective sling.
On Jan. 13, another section of his left rear hoof was removed. After Barbaro developed a deep abscess in his right hind foot, surgery was performed Saturday to insert two steel pins in a bone, one that was shattered but now healthy, to eliminate all weight bearing on the ailing foot.
This after Richardson warned last December that Barbaro's right hind leg was getting stronger and that the left hind foot was a "more formidable long-term challenge."
In the end, the various complications from the breakdown at the Preakness were too much.
Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press