Barbaro's Memory Spurs Retirement Program Donations

by Kathleen Adams

Soon after the death of Barbaro Jan. 29, horse racing enthusiasts and fans of the colt began contacting equine retirement organizations and making donations in his memory.

“We’ve received at least a dozen donations from Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Canada,” said Sara Polley of the New York office of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. “There has been a few in the hundred-dollar range, but many are for smaller amounts. Most say, ‘In Memory of Barbaro,’ although we did get one contribution made in memory of Lost in the Fog and Barbaro.”

Barbara Luna, executive director of ReRun, said the New Jersey-based Thoroughbred adoption group has also been the beneficiary of the generous spirit demonstrated by so many ordinary people who followed Barbaro’s valiant eight-month fight for life after breaking down during last year’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course.

“We’ve gotten in a few donations,” Luna said. “We’re not going to solicit. And while ReRun won’t turn down donations, I really feel as though the money should go to the New Bolton Center for research on laminitis. They do such good work there.”

Two weeks ago, before Barbaro’s recovery took a turn for the worse, the Friends of Barbaro, an Internet-based fan group presented Old Friends, an equine retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky., that is home to 24 ex-racehorses including Breeders’ Cup champion Sunshine Forever, with an unexpected gift in honor of trainer Michael Matz’s birthday. Matz trained Barbaro.

“I called over to his farm and left a message and told him, 'If you’re looking for your birthday presents, they’re over here at Old Friends because these people raised nearly $700 for these old retired horses,' " said Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends.

And while opening the daily mail, Blowen was taken aback to find a check for $1,500 from a Maryland racing fan for a run-in shed.

“This is good because we’re going to be getting in another horse and we’re going to need this run-in shed,” Blowen said. “He wants the plate on the run-in shed to be engraved to say, ‘Believe in Miracles, Barbaro.’ ”

Blowen said Old Friends has fielded dozens of telephone calls and e-mails from fans who just want to talk about Barbaro and what he meant to racing.

“It has been amazing,” Blowen said. “He has been a magnet for everything that is good about this sport and a reminder that we have to do a better job with these horses once they retire.”