Not Seabiscuit, who came from nowhere to provide a needed diversion to people suffering from the Great Depression and to win the legendary match race against Man O’ War, the winner of the Triple Crown. Not Secretariat. Not even Affirmed.
No, NBC’s shameless run-up to the Kentucky Derby was the infotainment feature “Barbaro: A Nation’s Horse,” which was supposed to air on Sunday April 29. It was pushed to cable by the New York Rangers double-overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres in their Stanley Cup quarterfinal.
I’m sorry Barbaro shattered his leg on national TV at Pimlico, where the second race in the Triple Crown is run. I’m sorry that despite heroic measures to stabilize his leg, he never really recovered. I’m sorry he had to be put down.
But let’s get real. Barbaro was a horse bred for racing and could have looked forward to a retirement of stud service. He was owned by wealthy horse nuts Roy and Gretchen Jackson and Barbaro was one of 15 to 25 thoroughbreds they have in training at any time. They have owned 25 horses that have run in the Kentucky Derby, five each which finished second and third. Their horse won the English steeplechase equivalent of the Kentucky Derby on the same day that Barbaro won. They sold that winner and another horse for more than $2 million each.
Was he really a nation’s horse? Did we lower our flags to half-staff when he died?