Seven members of the Maryland Racing Commission huddled around a television yesterday, studying tapes of Barbaro's fateful missteps in the 2006 Preakness. For 30 minutes, they examined the stumble from three camera angles in hopes of finding a cause or a reason that Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner, suffered a broken leg during the May 20 race.
Frame by frame, the commissioners inspected the films. Their conclusion?
"We agreed unanimously that the evidence is inconclusive," said chairman John P. McDaniel.
"We found no untoward action taken by any jockey or horse to cause Barbaro to have a broken right hind leg."
Though tapes of the horse's moment of injury were partially veiled by shadows on the track, the commission blamed the colt's injury on "bad racing luck," McDaniel said.
"I watched [the tapes] every which way but Sunday, and I just can't tell," commissioner John Franzone said. "Something catastrophic happened to Barbaro right out of the starting gate.
"It's possible the horse could have been clipped on the heels, but could we see it? No."
Members gathered to watch the films in the Ruffian Room at Laurel Park. The room pays homage to the champion filly who broke down during a match race in 1975 and had to be euthanized.
Barbaro continues to fight for his life, recovering from an infection and adjusting to a sixth new cast at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center.
His injury has been fodder for "a number of conspiracy theories, everything from someone [messing] with the horse the night before the Preakness to someone tampering with the starting gate," McDaniel said.
The horse was even rumored to be the target of a terrorist plot, said J. Michael Hopkins, executive director of the commission.
"I received a dozen calls from people who said that al-Qaida was responsible," Hopkins said.