The morning of Jan. 29 represented a lot of things for Roy and Gretchen Jackson. Not only was it the one-year anniversary of when their colt Barbaro lost his battle with laminitis, but it was the day when they would finally reveal that he would lay to rest at Churchill Downs — the site where he captured the hearts of millions after winning the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Jan. 29 was also a day the Jacksons would realize the impact and awareness their colt had made on research for the disease that took his life. At a press conference at Churchill Downs, the Jacksons told the public that nearly $3 million had been raised for laminitis research at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in a fund established in the colt's honor.
Barbaro will be the first horse in history to have his remains placed on the grounds of the historic track. His ashes will be interred outside Churchill's entrance gate in a large elevated space enclosed by bricks. The site will also include a life-size bronze statue commissioned by the Jacksons and loaned to the track as part of the official memorial site.
Roy Jackson said Churchill Downs was the best place to honor the colt, who won the Derby by a dominating 6-1/2 lengths before being injured in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
"We think it’s a phenomenal decision for them to make," said Kentucky Derby Museum executive director Lynn Ashton. "Now everyone will have the opportunity to come and visit and to learn about Barbaro. The Jacksons have given Barbaro's final resting place the same time and consideration as they did his race career and decisions about his recovery."
Ashton said the museum would host a temporary exhibit at the start of this year's fall meet that will run through the period of time when the statue will be installed around the summer of 2009. The Jacksons plan to make a final decision on which artists will create the statue in the next few months.
"It became overwhelmingly clear that this is where (Barbaro) should be," said Gretchen Jackson. "We wrestled with it for awhile, but we're really thrilled that (Churchill) wanted him."
The Jacksons considered several other sites for Barbaro's burial over the last year, such as the Kentucky Horse Park and Fair Hill Training Center.
"(Barbaro's Derby) was such a special day and race for us, and Churchill holds such reverence, and he's part of that now," Gretchen added. "It's very special. (Barbaro's legacy) is far bigger than us. It's about everybody now, and we're fine with that."
Roy Jackson said he envisioned Barbaro's statue as a representation of his love for running.
"My memory is Barbaro running down the stretch (at the Derby) six lengths ahead with all four feet off the ground," he said.
As a tribute to the colt, a memorial video featuring children from the neighboring schools of Semple and Frayser Elementary was played at the press conference.
"He inspired the people of America," said Piper Whitmere, a fifth grader at Semple. "He showed that you can struggle (in life), but you can probably get past almost any obstacle."
"The Kentucky Derby is about memories," said Churchill Downs president Steve Sexton, adding that Barbaro had transcended the memories of past Derby winners by creating a global awareness for equine health research. "We just want to thank the Jacksons for bringing Barbaro back here."