KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (AP) – For the last eight months, one of Dean Richardson’s first stops on his morning rounds was Barbaro’s ICU stall.
Richardson looked into the colt’s bright eyes, made sure he was comfortable and formed an emotional bond with the Kentucky Derby winner that maybe only owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson equaled.
One day after Barbaro was euthanized, the morning rounds felt terribly empty.
“I’m still having trouble dealing with it,” said Richardson, the chief of surgery for the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, his voice cracking. “I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s still hard to deal with.”
Even so, Richardson had plenty to do Tuesday. Back in surgery, he popped out briefly in the New Bolton lobby to give one person a medical update on her horse, cracking a few jokes and putting the owner at ease about her stallion.
Just another day at the office.
“That’s what I do,” Richardson said.
But not everything was back to normal at New Bolton a day after Barbaro was euthanized after complications from his gruesome breakdown at last year’s Preakness. Staffers were subdued, and the floral deliveries arrived with sympathy cards attached instead of messages of hope:
“Barbaro, you fought the good fight. You will always be a champion. Love you!!!!!”
“In loving memory of Barbaro, champion of our hearts.”
As Gretchen Jackson said Monday, grief was the price they all paid for love.
“I’ve been getting up before six every morning for the last eight months to look at the horse,” said Richardson, pausing to collect his thoughts. “And he’s not there. It’s kind of tough.”
Barbaro’s body was no longer at New Bolton, and the Jacksons have yet to announce the final resting place.
It could be just a few hundred yards from the scene of Barbaro’s greatest triumph in the Kentucky Derby.
Officials at the Kentucky Derby Museum, located on the Churchill Downs grounds in Louisville, Ky., said Tuesday they’d be “honored” if Barbaro were buried in a garden along with four other Derby winners.
“We’ve expressed to them how honored we’d be to have Barbaro here,” said Lynn Ashton, executive director of the museum. “We feel like we’re bringing horses back to be honored.”
The grave sites of Derby winners Sunny’s Halo (1983), Carry Back (1961), Swaps (1955) and Brokers Tip (1933) are located outside on the museum grounds.
Other possibilities include the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., and the Jacksons’ Lael Farm, just a few miles from the New Bolton Center.
AP Racing Writer Richard Rosenblatt contributed to this report.