Jacksons' return to Derby 'bittersweet'

Posted: May 05, 2007

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Yesterday, Gretchen Jackson said she hadn't yet had the chance to process what it was like to return to Churchill Downs, the site of Barbaro's greatest triumph.

"We just got here," Jackson said at an afternoon news conference with her husband, Roy, Barbaro's co-owner. "I'm still taking my pulse on this."

But she immediately came up with the word bittersweet, since the thrills were here, but their horse isn't any longer.

Other than the birth of her children and her wedding day, Jackson said, "this was the most exciting day of my life."

The Jacksons will be honored today for their efforts in trying to save Barbaro after his catastrophic injuries at the Preakness Stakes, before he ultimately was euthanized in January.

But to be back here is special, Gretchen Jackson said, "to return to a spot that I've held precious for 365 days ..."

She didn't have a hard time remembering what it was like to watch Barbaro romp down the lane to a 61/2-length victory, the largest winning margin in six decades.

"Extreme screaming at the joy of the moment," Jackson said of that day. "I could relive it again and again."

But here's another bittersweet part of it, that people don't automatically think of undefeated Barbaro's great feats on the racetrack. "We feel in some respects it has been forgotten," she said.

Roy Jackson mentioned how they had recently gotten to Mill Ridge Farm in Lexington to see Barbaro's second full brother, born two weeks ago.

"The biggest foal born at Mill Ridge this year, and well put together," Roy Jackson said.

His hope is that Barbaro's legacy continues on on multiple fronts, including contributions to fight laminitis, which ultimately led to Barbaro's downfall. Jackson found it interesting, he said, that a national newscast this week on racetrack surfaces included Barbaro as part of the coverage.

One strange aspect of his legacy is that it was recently announced that there would be a $1 million bonus paid by Yum! Brands, presenting sponsor for the Kentucky Derby, to the connections of any horse that wins this year's Derby by more than Barbaro's winning margin of 61/2 lengths.

"To me, if I'm winning very handily, I don't care about the bonus," said Barbaro's jockey, Edgar Prado, who will be on Florida Derby champion Scat Daddy today. "I care about the safety of the horse, [that he comes] back good and have something left for the Preakness. The most important thing is the safety of the horse, not beating him up and make a couple of extra bucks."

It's hard to imagine anyone thinking about the bonus while trying to win the Kentucky Derby. But the symbolism of that award is bizarre. Imagine if two horses collide and go down and another horse gets past to win by seven lengths.

"More money is well-appreciated," Prado said. "It's a way of how you do it. For me personally, if they do it handily, fine."

Prado said he would be trying to concentrate on the task at hand today, not thinking about last year.

"You know, I love Barbaro; he really gave me the biggest thrill of my life; he really changed my life forever," Prado said. "But in this business, you have to move on."


Contact staff writer Mike Jensen

at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

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