But rival trainer Nick Zito, never one to withhold his emotions, put things in perspective.
Reflecting on his own mishaps over the years, Zito said, "The whole story is this: Let's just hope Barbaro lives. ... You have to cherish the moment in racing."
For his owners, trainer and legion of fans, that moment will be Barbaro's dominating victory in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and his promise as a potential Triple Crown winner.
Instead, by Sunday night, the Kentucky Derby winner had endured some six hours of surgery to repair three fractures in his right hind leg, suffered when he apparently took a bad step nearing the wire for the first time in the Preakness. The operation itself reportedly was successful in fusing the ankle joint but the colt faces a long and uncertain recuperation if he is to be saved for stud duty.
"We hopefully fused the fetlock successfully so he will live and have a career as a stallion," said Dr. Dean Richardson, who performed the surgery. But, he added cautiously, "He's still a coin toss even after things went well."
But as Barbaro's racing career ended, that of Bernardini got a sudden boost. Bernardini, making only his fourth career start, rallied smartly past pace-setters Like Now and Sweetnorthernsaint as the field turned for home in the Preakness and went on to win convincingly, by 5 1/4 lengths. Sweetnorthernsaint, which grabbed a quarter leaving the gate, held on for second despite wandering down the stretch. Hemingway's Key was a long-shot third and Brother Derek was fourth with another unfortunate trip.
Bernardini, owned and bred by Sheik Mohammed's Darley Stable, is a son of A.P. Indy, out of the Quiet American mare Cara Rafaela -- bloodlines that indicate the 1 1/2 mile of the Belmont Stakes will not be beyond his distance ability.
"I think you would have to say he's very versatile," said Darley bloodstock manager John Ferguson. "Anything from a mile, possibly a mile and a half, would be within his compass. He's certainly as well-bred as any horse in the United States and that obviously makes him very exciting for the future."
Trainer Tom Albertrani, asked about the Belmont, said, "Well, I think we'll let Sheik Mohammed decide what to do with this colt's next race. He was very happy for us to run this horse today and it was a good decision bringing him here. We had a lot of confidence in this horse and we just felt he had the talent to compete at this level."
In other Saturday racing at "Old Hilltop":
-- Better Talk Now, idle since an unsuccessful trip to Japan in November, rebounded with a come-from-behind win in the $250,000 Comp USA Dixie Stakes, beating Dreadnaught by a head and Artie Schiller by another neck. The race was a showdown of Breeders' Cup Winners. Better Talk Now won the Breeders' Cup Turf two years ago and Artie Schiller won the Mile last fall at Belmont Park. In the Dixie, jockey Ramon Dominguez let Better Talk Now idle at the back of the pack until the field neared the stretch run, then advanced through horses and just won by the bob of a head. He completed the 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:48.48. Graham Motion said his other starter, Shake the Bank served his purpose when jockey Tommy Turner got him going after a stumbling start. "What a job he did to compensate. I told him to go a half in 47 and he went in 48. They both ran great races," Motion said, adding Better Talk Now "is so honest. ... This isn't his distance, don't forget. I felt about as confident today as I've felt in a while."
-- Three-year-olds not quite up to the Preakness battled it out in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes and High Cotton was clearly the best of them. Quickly out front under Garrett Gomez, the Kentucky-bred son of Dixie Union shook off a challenge from Ultimate Goal and drew clear to win by 5 1/2 lengths over that rival. Little Cliff was third and the favorite, Ah Day, struggled home fifth. High Cotton ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.95. High Cotton, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park in March, then finished ninth in the Arkansas Derby. "Apparently he likes to run loose on the lead," said Pletcher assistant Ginny dePasquale. "He won at Turfway like that. He was in a bit of trouble at Oaklawn and broke in a little bit of a tangle coming out of the gate. He had a clean trip this time."
-- Master Command was out to the lead early in the $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap, fought off a challenge from Andromeda's Hero and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over that foe. Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner, ran evenly to finish well back in third. Master Commander, a 4-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred son of A.P. Indy, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.42 with Garrett Gomez at the controls. "He just took off like a rocket ship," said Gomez. Richard Migliore, who rode Funny Cide, said he "ran an OK race but there were a number of game runners in here. The top two ran real big."
-- Friendly Island stalked the speedy Kazoo through the early going in the $150,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Sprint, got to the lead and fought off a tag team of challengers to win by 3/4 length. Celtic Innis finished second and Gaff was third, Kazoo held on for fourth. Friendly Island, a 5-year-old, New York-bred son of Crafty Friend, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.94 for jockey Garrett Gomez. He hadn't won since copping a state-bred event at Belmont last fall. "I was just a passenger," Gomez said.
-- Songster shot to the lead in the $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes for 3-year-olds and never looked back, winning off by 10 lengths over Valid Brush. Urban Guy missed second by a nose. Songster, a Florida-bred son of Songandaprayer, was geared down late by jockey Edgar Prado, finishing the 6 furlongs in 1:09.72. Like the Preakness winner, he is trained by Tom Albertrani for Sheik Mohammed's Darley Stable. "He did it all by himself," Prado said. "He's got a lot of speed, so we weren't concerned about that at all," said Albertrani about cutting back in distance for the race.
-- Ozone Bere, a 4-year-old, French-bred filly, put in a late bid along the rail and was just up to win the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap by a head over Humoristic. Art Fan finished third. Ozone Bere, with Javier Castellano up, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.08. "For her first time in the country, she did everything perfect," said Castellano. "This was our first race in this country and we were not sure how well we would do," said Nicholas Bachalard, assistant to winning trainer Christophe Clement. "So we have not determined where she will run next."
-- My Lord rallied seven-wide down the stretch to beat favorite Southern Missile by 3/4 lengths in the $100,000 Baltimore Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Spring Kitten was third, a nose farther back. My Lord, a 7-year-old, California-bred gelding by Lord Carson, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.40 seconds with Rosie Napravnik aboard. "In races like this, sometimes they go fast early and you can't catch them," Napravnik said. "Sometimes they go fast early and stop. Luckily, that's the way it turned out."
On Friday at Pimlico:
-- Invasor, an internationally traveled Argentine-bred making his first U.S. start, sat off the early pace in the $500,000 Pimlico Special, was put to the drive at the top of the stretch and got by to win by 1 1/4 length over the favorite, Wanderin Boy. West Virginia was third, followed by Harlington and We Can Seek. Invasor, with Ramon Dominguez up, ran 1 3/16 mile on the fast main track in 1:54.40. In his last previous start, the 4-year-old son of Candy Stripes was fourth in the UAE Derby (he was eligible as a Southern Hemisphere foal). Before that, he won five straight races in Uruguay. "He did surprise me a bit," said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "We liked him. But when you're up against these type horses, you don't know where you stand. So I'm pleasantly surprised." The colt is owned by Shadwell Stable.
-- Smart N Pretty seemed an easy winner of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies until the stewards ruled she interfered with Regal Engagement in the stretch run and reversed the order of finish. Smart N Pretty, with Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard, drifted out at the 16th pole, forcing Regal Engagement and Ramon Dominguez to steady. The resulting margin was 3 1/2 lengths, with Baghdaria third, well back. The time for the 1 1/8 mile was 1:50.11. "I had to move her out so we didn't clip heels," said Dominguez. Arroyo disagreed. "His horse bumped mine," he argued. "That's horse racing," said Smart N Pretty's trainer, Dale Romans.
-- Pool Land stayed right behind the early pace it the $125,000 Allaire du Pont Breeders' Cup Distaff, got to the leader with three furlongs to run and went on to win by 1 length over Josh's Madelyn. In the Gold finished third. Pool Land, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Silver Deputy, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.71 for jockey Garrett Gomez. She is trained by Todd Pletcher for Melnyk Racing Stables. "I thought she would rate," Pletcher said. "She has done everything right her whole life."
-- In the $75,000 The Very One Stakes, Gilded Gold beat Bright Gold for the third straight time. Leading most of the way, Gilded Gold, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Gilded Time, won off by 2 1/2 lengths. Bright Gold rallied wide from mid-pack but couldn't make any progress on the leader. Gilded Gold ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.37 seconds under Javier Castellano.
-- The entire, seven-horse field went for the lead in the $125,000 Adena Stallions' Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. When things sorted out, Wildcat Bettie B won both the battle and war. After little more than a furlong, the Kentucky-bred filly by Meadowlake had the lead and then extended it to win by 2 lengths over Press Camp. G City Gal finished third as the favorite. The 6 furlongs went in 1:10.05. "I really wasn't expecting to be on the lead," said winning rider Ramon Dominguez. "A couple of horses that were on the lead got shuffled."
In other weekend racing:
Peeress had to work through competitors to find the front in Sunday's Juddmonte Lockinge Stakes at Newbury in England, then went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Majors Cast. Court Masterpiece was third. Peeress, a 5-year-old daughter of Pivotal, with Kieren Fallon up, got the 1 mile in 1:44.57 over a course rated "soft." "She needs the lead," Fallon told the Press Association. "When she hits the front, she idles a bit. She's a tough filly and got a lot of ability." Trainer Michael Stoute said Peeress, winner in seven of her 13 starts, is headed for Royal Ascot and the Queen Anne Stakes.
Changing Weather, shipped in from California, came five-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds, fought to the front and was just up to win by a head over Court Folly. He's Got Grit got third. Changing Weather, a Florida-bred colt by Storm Boot, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.86 under Robby Albarado. "He's been running against some really nice horses in California," said Albarado. "Today's longer stretch, I knew he'd like it. He ran hard. He held off that horse late." The colt ran fourth behind Too Much Bling in his last start, the San Vicente at Santa Anita. "If I could have had an allowance race in California for him, I probably would have run him there," said winning trainer Eoin Harty. "I just wanted to get his confidence back."
Trainer Todd Pletcher hoped against hope that he could get Sunriver into the Kentucky Derby after a promising third-place finish in the Florida Derby. When that didn't happen, he decided against a late entry into the Triple Crown fray and, instead, sent his Saint Ballado colt to New York for Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes. That turned out to be a good choice as Sunriver rallied past a stubborn pace-setter, Lewis Michael, to win by a neck. Strong Contender was home third. With Rafael Bejarano up, Sunriver ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:49.39. Now, Pletcher's patience may be rewarded with a strong contender for the Belmont Stakes in three weeks. "Sunriver kept coming and finished up big," the trainer said of his colt's Peter Pan. "It looked like he still had something left at the end. Rafael kind of worked his way to the outside early to get a clear run." Bejarano said Sunriver "really finished strong. I think he could stretch out." The Belmont is 1 1/2 mile.
Sunday, Take D'Tour led virtually all the way to an easy, 5 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 Shuvee Handicap for fillies and mares. Balletto was second and Smuggler third. The favorite, Indian Vale, stumbled at the start, then faded in the stretch to finish last of five. Take D'Tour, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Tour d'Or, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.10 with Cornelio Velasquez riding. "She was really rank in the paddock and I told Cornelio, 'You'll be on the lead,'" said winning trainer David Fawkes. "I didn't think she'd win this race that easy."
Northern Soldier remained undefeated in three lifetime starts with a hard-fought victory in Saturday's $150,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial for 3-year-olds. The northern California shipper, a Kentucky-bred son of Yankee Victor, sat behind the early pace set by Remembering Star, went to the front when asked by rider Chance Rollins at mid-stretch and held on well to win by 3/4 length. The favorite, Arson Squad, was home third. Northern Soldier ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.46. "We were hoping for a good trip like that," said winning trainer Brian Koriner. "I think he'll stretch out."
Sunday, Stratham rallied along the rail in the stretch run and was up in time to win the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3/4 length over New Joysey Jeff. Obrigado was third. Stratham, an Irish-bred son of Bean Island, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.19 for jockey David Cohen. "I asked David if he could try to save ground," said winning trainer Tim Yakteen, "because we were stepping up in competition."
Malakoff set himself up for a try at the Queen's Plate with a handy, 7 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Marine Stakes. After stalking the pace down the backstretch, jockey Todd Kabel swung the Lemon Drop Kid colt out three-wide into the stretch and he responded with a dominating surge. Ok Nothanksforaskn was second after showing the way and Bear Character, the odds-on favorite, pressed the pace but had nothing left, finishing third. Malakoff ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.00 on a "good" track. The colt is owned by Stronach Stables and trained by Brian Lynch. "He really took a big step forward," said Lynch. "That's what we wanted to see. We'll give him a little time off and try to take a fresh horse into the Plate." The Queen's Plate is June 25.
Bonfante used a pace-stalking trip to capture Saturday's $100,000 California Turf Sprint Championship, rallying through the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Old Man River. Red Warrior finished third. Bonfante, a 5-year-old, California-bred gelding by Fruition, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.04 seconds with Russell Baze in the irons.
Trickle of Gold pushed the early pace in Saturday's $75,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes for fillies and mares, went to the lead at the top of the stretch and won a long stretch duel, beating Annnika Lass by 1 length. Miss Elsie finished third. Trickle of Gold, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Formal Gold, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.16 with Jeremy Rose up. Rose helicoptered to Maryland right after the race to ride Hemingway's Key to a third-place finish in the Preakness.
Mountaineer Race Track
Morine's Victory took back behind a quick early pace in Saturday's $75,000 Waterford Park Handicap, came wide entering the stretch and wore down the tiring leaders, winning off by 3 1/2 lengths over Yucatan. Danieltown, the pace-setter, finished third, 8 1/2 lengths farther back. Morine's Victory, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Victory Gallop, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:08.38 under Rex Stokes III.
Graziella came from mid-pack to win Saturday night's $75,000 Tellike Stakes for fillies and mares by a head over Space Cruise. Baby R was third, just another neck back, while the odds-on favorite, Indigo Girl, faded badly to finish sixth of seven. Graziella, a 6-year-old, Oklahoma-bred mare by Honour and Glory, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.60 for jockey Kirk LeBlanc.
Diamond Dollars was solid gold in Sunday's $55,000 Federal Way Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, leading from the start and drawing clear to win by 10 lengths. The Case Queen was second, a nose in front of Devons Smokin. Diamond Dollars, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stravinsky, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.60 with Gallyn Mitchell in the irons.
Pretty Jenny took the wide route around the corner in Saturday's $40,000 Fit for a Queen Stakes for fillies and mares but, with enthusiastic encouragement from jockey Ariel Smith, was up in time to win by 1 length over Maggie Jordan. Tax Refund let but faded to finish third. Pretty Jenny, a 4-year-old, Illinois-bred filly by Pioneering, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.36.
B.B. Wolf was first under the wire in Saturday's $65,000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-bred colts and geldings but was disqualified and placed last in the six-horse field for interference in deep stretch. That handed the victory to Asailortoremember, who finished 1 length behind B.B. Wolf. Wild Wild West was promoted to second and Roarofvictory to third. The horse which was fouled, Just Add Water, finished last after being shut off and forced to check. The 6-furlong race took 1:10.26. Asailortoremember is a 6-year-old gelding by Sail Me Again.
Alcres George waited for the first mile and a half of Sunday's $50,000 Hasta La Vista Handicap, then moved to the front and won the marathon by 1 1/4 lengths over Mino Ona. Western Act was third. Alcres George, a 5-year-old son of Lake George, got the 1 7/8 mile in 3:13.46 under the patient ride of Wilson Dieguez.
Sentimental Charm rallied from behind the leaders to win Sunday's $40,000 Lady Slipper Stakes. Saveeta was second and Jills Classy faded to third after leading. Jockey Derek Bell, Canterbury's all-time leading rider, picked up his 1,000th career win in the event.
News and notes....
The Hong Kong Jockey Club announced an additional HK$6 million in purse money -- to HK$62 million -- for the December International Races and an additional 200 meters -- to 1,200 meters -- for the Hong Kong Sprint. The new total purse money equates to about $8 million in United States funds. The races are sponsored by Cathay Pacific, whose marketing manager, Charlie Stewart-Cox, said the changes "will further cement the position of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races as the Turf World Championships."