The gasps that rose from the record crowd of 118,402 gathered for Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course told the story. There eventually was a winner, but even his connections were thinking about the injury to heavily favored Barbaro, who was pulled up in front of the stands soon after the start.
"You feel very upset when you see something like that happen," said Tom Albertrani, who trained Darley Stable's Bernardini to his 5 1/4-length win in the Preakness. "I can understand what they're going through."
"Nobody wants to see that happen," said John Ferguson, bloodstock adviser for Sheikh Mohammed, who owns the international Darley operation. "We would have loved to see them battling down the straight together."
Mike Trombetta had a lot to cheer for as the trainer of Sweetnorthernsaint, who made a bid for the lead near the top of the stretch and ran on well to finish second, six lengths ahead of Hemmingway's Key. But even he struggled to speak after the race.
"Give me a while before I say anything--I just can't talk right now...Our performance was great, and obviously he got a great trip. It looked like he stumbled a bit coming out (of the gate). He might have grabbed a quarter. I think it is incidental, but I don't think it's an excuse...This is terrible (what happened to Barbaro)."
"The whole story is this--let's just hope Barbaro lives," said trainer Nick Zito, who trains Hemingway's Key. "These things happen that no one can dream of. I had the favorite in the Derby Trial for the Steinbrenner family, Protagonist. He was perfectly sound, and he broke a sesamoid leaving the gate.
"That's why I say you have to cherish the moment in racing, because here's a star. Let's just hope everything is OK."
It marks the second consecutive year the Preakness was marred, though last year, disaster was averted and the eventual winner became one of the most recognized athletes in sports. Afleet Alex won in a romp, but not before he and jockey Jeremy Rose almost went down at the top of the stretch when Scrappy T veered out sharply.
"I'm really excited for me and for my group to win the Preakness," said jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Bernardini. "But at the same time, I saw (Barbaro) right in the middle of the track (after the finish), and everybody trying to help him. It's really, really sad. It's really bad."
"Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer," said Dr. Larry Bramlage, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners.