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Disaster at the Preakness: Barbaro Pulls Up

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

The Presidential race is more than two yeas off, but today the citizens of New Orleans are voting in a run-off election for mayor. Polls will be open until 8 p.m. local time. From political horse races, we turn now to an actual horse race, the Preakness, and an upset victory by Bernardini.

NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now.

Hi, there, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN reporting:

Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: So there was some drama tonight at Pamlico. All eyes were on the Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro. But he didn't even make it around the track.

GOLDMAN: No, it was in fact a bizarre and a shocking night at Pamlico. The strange happenings began even before the race, when Barbaro was loaded into the gates and then burst from the gate, even before the race started, and a couple of horses had to bring him around, bring him around back.

And then, and then the race began with the nine horses breaking from the gate, and just about ten seconds in, Barbaro broke down. And it was just a stunning happening. You could see his right hind leg kind of flopping, and that was not a good sight to see.

And the stunningness of all this, of being a horse that was expected to make a serious run at the Triple Crown, winning all three of the big races, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and the Belmont, to being broke down, and a track veterinarian actually said it was probably a career ending injury, it might even be life-threatening, it's just a stunning development.

ELLIOTT: What have you been able to find out about the injury?

GOLDMAN: Well, what the attending veterinarian at the track, Dr. Larry Bramwich(ph), says, it was a serious fracture above and below the right hind ankle. And this requires major surgery. Barbaro reportedly is being transported to Pennsylvania, where we expect the surgery to take place.

The main concern is whether there is damage to the blood supply to the area around the ankle, and if there is, that potentially could be life-threatening. It's very hard to stabilize a horse. They're enormous animals, and can be very jumpy. And a horse, you know, can't lie down and mend like a person would or be on crutches. You know, so they traditionally won't tolerate standing still, and traditionally horses have been put down for serious leg injuries. Orthopedic surgery has gotten better in recent years. They've figured out how to stabilize horses better. But if you've got a lively horse, it's very, very hard to do. So Dr. Bramwich, the person I mentioned, the attending veterinarian, was quoted on TV as saying, Say a prayer for Barbaro.

ELLIOTT: So tell us about the winner, Bernardini. Bernardini. Was he a long shot?

GOLDMAN: Right. Not a long shot. Actually, right before the race, they were talking about him being kind of a savvy pick for the race, because everyone was focused on Barbaro. Bernardini is owned by Dubai ruler Sheikh Muhammad. He's got good bloodlines. He's sired by AP Indy(ph), who was the 1992 Horse of the Year. Ran a very good race, but tragically not many people were watching it, and not many people, you know, were really paying attention, and we never really will know how good Bernardini is, because Barbaro left the race so quickly.

ELLIOTT: And briefly, Tom, we should update folks on some big baseball news today.

GOLDMAN: Very big baseball news. We've been waiting since May 7 for Barry Bonds to hit another home run, and he finally did it today. He hit number 714, which ties Babe Ruth for second on the all-time home run list. He did it in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics. That game is now over, so Barry's done for the day. The next one he hits will be number 715, move him past Babe Ruth, and get him on his way to the all-time leader, Henry Aaron, with 755.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Debbie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.