Get well wishes

Many feeling pain over Barbaro's hurt

Others somewhat bewildered by the blanket media coverage

Barbaro: Road To Recovery

May 23, 2006|By JOHN EISENBERG | JOHN EISENBERG,SUN REPORTER

Crickett Goodall couldn't stop thinking about Barbaro yesterday.

"I'm tired and I'm sore. I feel emotionally spent," said Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.

Her hollow feeling was shared by many in and beyond the sports world yesterday; a fair share of office and radio chatter centered on the fate of the horse who won the Kentucky Derby and then broke down Saturday in the Preakness Stakes.

"It's very emotional for a lot of people," said Goodall, a horse owner herself.

But Tony Ward, 49, wasn't among the concerned. Stopping to talk in front of a post office in Govans yesterday, he said he didn't even know what happened at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore over the weekend.

"I was on the job Saturday. I didn't hear about it," said Ward, who works at a church on Old York Road.

He shrugged, seemingly unmoved, when the story of Barbaro's breakdown was recounted for him

"There's no question there are larger problems in the world," said Marcia Moylan of Baltimore on her way into the Govans post office. "I'm not upset about it. But I'm rooting for the horse to make it."

Barbaro underwent more than four hours of life-saving surgery at a Pennsylvania veterinary hospital Sunday, and the first full day of his convalescence went well yesterday.

He was "very alert" and "seemed fine," said his trainer, Michael Matz. His surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson, reported that Barbaro even showed interest in some nearby mares.

But Richardson also said the horse's chances of survival remained 50-50.

In the wake of Barbaro's breakdown and the intense media coverage that has followed, some people remain crestfallen and others don't quite get it. Some can't shake the memory of the horse hobbling on three legs; others either don't care or believe that their compassion is better spent on human problems such as Iraq or Darfur.

"It would good to be talking about, say, The Da Vinci Code movie. That's a more important issue. How does religion fit into your life?" Moylan said.

But it was inevitable that there would be widespread interest in Barbaro, she added.

"Racehorses are inspiring animals," Moylan said. "And it brings people together when they see something like this and, in essence, share it. It makes them feel better that they care about the horse. And it makes them feel good to know that the horse is doing well since he had surgery."

A security guard overlooking the baseball field at Mount St. Joseph High School on Frederick Avenue said yesterday evening that he had heard it both ways, with some people weeping and others lamenting that so much compassion was being shown for a horse.

"I side with the animal. That was awful," said the guard, who requested anonymity.

How prevalent is the story? Drew Forrester, co-host of the morning show on WNST, an all-sports radio station, was on the air yesterday for the first time since the Preakness. He said he and co-host Terry Ford spent the bulk of the show discussing Barbaro and the state of Maryland racing, but that only about a third of their callers wanted to talk about it.

"It wasn't all Barbaro, not even close," Forrester said. "I like horse racing a lot myself, but I can't say that the general sports public is out there obsessing over this. I know I watched the race Saturday at a party, and everyone saw the breakdown and commented about how awful it was, but then they just went back out to the keg."

Forrester suggested that the time between Barbaro's breakdown and yesterday morning's broadcast might have contributed to the relatively low level of interest.

"If we had gone on the next morning, I'm sure it would have been all Barbaro," he said. "But it was a day later, and the NBA playoffs are ongoing, and people move on."

Not everyone moves on, though. As she wobbled through her day yesterday, Goodall couldn't fathom those who said that their compassion would be better spent on humans.

"This horse's competitive spirit was so strong that he broke his leg trying to run and win. It's not like he stubbed his toe," she said. "It's like a great athlete that suffers a severe injury, only in the case of a horse, it can mean the end of its life.

"As I watched it Saturday, my initial reaction was, `Oh, that is awful. I don't want to watch another race.' And I'm in the industry. But you have to get beyond that. As a horse owner, I know a very long and difficult road lies ahead for this horse. But people who saw him break down are going to be emotional about wanting to see him survive. And a lot of people who didn't see him run are going to be emotional, too."

john.eisenberg@baltsun.com

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