Another mighty warrior has fallen. Barbaro, winner of the Kentucky Derby and heavily favored to win the Preakness, sustained a career-ending and life-threatening injury to his right rear leg. The three-year old colt won the Kentucky Derby by a commanding margin, drawing comparisons to Secretariat, the legendary Triple Crown winner. Barbaro could have become the first horse to win the Triple Crown of horse racing (Kentucky Derby/Preakness/Belmont Stakes) since Affirmed won the coveted trifecta in 1978. Barbaro’s fractured leg was an unexpected shock, dousing any flickering hopes for a Triple Crown winner this year. Sports fans, especially horse racing aficionados, have been left wondering when the next Triple Crown winner will seize victory from the grip of defeat.
Barbaro’s tragedy is reminiscent of other recent failed Triple Crown contenders. For those who enjoy watching thoroughbred horse racing, who could forget underdog Smarty Jones in 2004, when he fell short of the Triple Crown at the hooves of stronger rival Birdstone? Or Funny Cide running away with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to be stopped by favored Empire Builder in the Belmont Stakes? In the 28 years since Affirmed’s Triple Crown, 17 colts have teased fans with two Triple Crown victories, but none have won all three races. Barbaro’s fall is especially bitter because he was such a dominant horse–the kind you knew had the potential to win it all. Like many great competitors, Barbaro fell in defeat astonishingly fast. No longer is winning Barbaro’s objective–it’s survival.