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Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy

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Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy by Alex Brown

"Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy" by Alex Brown

Glen View Media

The Bottom Line

In the past quarter century, no other racehorse has captured the imagination of both the racing and non-racing public more than 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The dream of a Triple Crown came to an end when he broke down in the Preakness. In his first book, longtime horseman and New York Times contributor Alex Brown covers not only the life and times of this great racehorse, but also his legacy. Although Barbaro ultimately did not survive, he left a legacy that no Triple Crown winner could have matched. Brown's work belongs in every horse fan's personal library, as Barbaro's reach goes beyond the world of racing.

Pros

  • Very accurate account of Barbaro's life through extensive interviews and first-hand observations
  • Well-paced storyline, increasing at the most appropriate time, during the Preakness aftermath
  • Excellent photo essay section highlighting the horse and the people around him
  • Useful discussion on whether Barbaro was great, and worthy of Hall of Fame inclusion
  • A fitting tribute not only to the horse but to his owners, trainer, jockey, and surgeon

Cons

  • None. We could find no fault in this work about this very influential racehorse.

Description

  • Brown spent 2 years traveling around North America, working at 7 different tracks, to research for this book
  • He interviewed more than 100 people, two of which contributed text: ESPN's Jeannine Edwards, and co-owner Gretchen Jackson
  • The book is written in chronological order, starting with the purchase of his dam La Ville Rouge, mated with Dynaformer
  • On the farm, it was noticed that he was one of the largest foals in the group, and one of the most intelligent
  • Brown gives great detail on each of his starts, including how he was trained up to the race by Michael Matz
  • The role of Matz' assistant Peter Brette was not forgotten, as he was also Barbaro's regular exercise rider
  • Barbaro may be the only Kentucky Derby winner to never feel the whip during the race.
  • Some feel that had Edgar Prado urged him rather than hand ride, Secretariat's track record may have been in jeopardy.
  • Brown's work belongs in every horse fan's personal library, as Barbaro's reach goes beyond the world of racing.

Guide Review - Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy

Every racing fan remembers where they were that fateful moment on the third Saturday in May of 2006. Reading the book, the reader brings those images back to life, allowing you to recall the TV footage from memory, or what you saw if you were at Pimlico. After the breakdown, the story quickens its pace, as Brown has to cover three simultaneous events: Barbaro being transported from Pimlico to the New Bolton Center, Dr. Dean Richardson quickly returning from Florida, and his on-call staff at New Bolton jumping into action to prepare the clinic for surgery. A convenient "timeline" across the bottom of several pages gives week-by-week summaries of his time at New Bolton, as he improved over time, suffered some setbacks, and ultimately contracted laminitis and was euthanized. A chapter titled "Was Barbaro Great?" seeks to answer the question from various angles, through the opinions of several respected writers. The consensus was that he may not be Hall of Fame material due to his very short racing career (he failed to win an Eclipse Award for the same reason) but his Kentucky Derby was one of the most dominating performances ever seen, which makes him great in most people's eyes.

Rather than have the main text interspersed with photographs, illustrator Lynden Godsoe reproduced many of the images in a series of sketches, while 164 color photographs are shown in a separate "photo essay" section. Fans will enjoy seeing Barbaro rolling in his round pen, galloping in the mornings with Peter Brette aboard, and grazing after a job well done, and then feel the roller coaster of emotions during his time at New Bolton. The photo essay served as an excellent break in the text, separating the biography from the legacy.

During his time at the New Bolton Center, many people rallied to support him, sending him flowers and gifts. After his death due to laminitis, the NTRA began the Barbaro Fund for laminitis research. A group of fans banded together online as the Friends of Barbaro, or the FOB's, during his recovery, and after he died, stayed together to continue to support not only laminitis research but also horse welfare. It was their efforts that inspired Brown to travel, not only to research for his book but also to investigate horse slaughter, how racehorses are sold off to kill buyers who ship them to Mexico or Canada where slaughter of horses for meat is still legal. Brown wrote an entire chapter on laminitis, to explain to the public about his painful disease, and to show how little is known at this point.

Alex Brown left no stone unturned when researching and writing this book. Fans of horse racing will enjoy this look back at a tremendous racehorse on the track, who almost beat the odds to survive an injury which usually results in immediate euthanasia. The story and the photo essay will truly bring everything back into focus as if it happened yesterday, as 2006 is a racing year that few will ever forget.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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