Bernardini rolled to victory in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) Saturday before a record crowd of 118,402 at Pimlico Race Course while a serious injury shattered Barbaro's racing career and dreams of a Triple Crown bid.
The start was delayed after Barbaro broke through the gate. Then, in the first 200 yards of the dash to the first turn, the undefeated Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands! (gr. I) winner stumbled and dropped behind the surging field before being pulled up in distress by jockey Edgar Prado.
Dr. Larry Bramlage, a prominent equine surgeon with the American Association of Equine Practitioners On Call program, said that X-rays revealed that Barbaro fractured his right hind leg above and below the ankle. NBC reported that the colt would be sent to the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for surgery. According to Bramlage, a major factor in the prognosis will be how much the colt's blood supply has been compromised by the injury. His racing career is over and the best case scenario is to save him for stallion duty, Bramlage said.
"Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer," Bramlage said.
Barbaro, the odds-on choice in the field of nine at odds of 1-2, crashed through the starting gate moments before the planned beginning of the race. He was led back into the gate and the second starting attempt went fine. But jockey Edgar Prado pulled up Barbaro midway into the front stretch of the 1 3/16th-mile race, the horse limping in pain. Trainer Michael Matz, a former U.S. Olympian who survived a plane crash, bolted from the stands instantly upon seeing his Derby champion colt in pain.
Bernardini, a 12-1 shot, won by 5 1/4 lengths, covering the 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico in 1:54.65. He is a homebred who races for races for Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum's Darley Stable. The 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy
came into the Preakness off of a 3 3/4 victory in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct on April 29. The Preakness was only Bernardini's fourth career race, which includes three consecutive wins by a combined margin of 16 3/4 lengths. He earned $600,000 for the victory, running his career bankroll to $710,480.
Sweetnorthernsaint finished second, six lengths in front of Hemingway's Key. It was four lengths farther back to Brother Derek in fourth.
Like Now was the early leader, rolling through the first quarter mile in :23.21 and completing the half in :46.69. Benardini stalked the pace in fourth and then unleashed a powerful rally after being passed by a rank Brother Derek on the backstretch. He was 3 1/2 lengths front at the stretch call and he kept pulling away as he streaked toward the wire.
No horse since Affirmed in 1978 has won the American Triple Crown, which also includes next month's Belmont Stakes (gr. I). This is the longest drought in Triple Crown history.
With the Triple Crown bid undone in the opening seconds, the race itself was somewhat of an anti-climax as the bay colt Bernardini won in 1:54 3/5.
The bittersweet victory brought a subdued winner's circle celebration for Bernardini.
Bernardini jockey Javier Castellano, not knowing Barbaro was out of the race early, was waiting for him to make a move as the field rounded the final turn. Then he decided to make his move anyway.
"I hadn't realized he got hurt in the first turn. I tried to wait for Barbaro," Castellano said. "I couldn't wait for him. I just had to go.
"I really feel bad for Barbaro. You have to give him a lot of credit."
Bernardini paid $27.80, $9.40 and $5.80. Sweetnorthernsaint, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, returned $7.80 and $5. Hemingway's Key, with last year's winning Preakness jockey, Jeremy Rose (Afleet Alex) aboard, was $8 to show.
Brother Derek was followed under the finish line by Greeley's Legacy, Platinum Couple, Like Now and Diabolical.
Barbaro was only the second unbeaten Derby winner since 1977, taking that race by nearly seven lengths to earn favorite's status for the Preakness.