BALTIMORE -- Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke down at the start with a life-threatening injury, and Bernardini went on to win the $1 million Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
Barbaro was in the middle of the pack when he suddenly dropped back under Edgar Prado. The colt was favoring his right rear leg and the crowd gasped in dismay as the jockey pulled Barbaro to a stop just past the finish line and jumped off.
Fans were crying in the grandstand as the unbeaten 3-year-old was loaded into an equine ambulance and taken away, his injured leg in an inflatable cast.
Dr. Larry Bramlage of the American Association of Equine Practitioners said Barbaro suffered breaks above and below the ankle.
"It's a serious fracture. This will require pretty major surgery. ... Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer," he said. "His career is over. This is very life threatening. Under the best circumstances, we will try to save him as a stallion."
Barbaro, the 1-2 favorite, broke through the starting gate before the official start, but Bramlage said that had nothing to do with the injury. After the colt was led back to the gate, the field broke cleanly.
While Barbaro was being attended to, distraught trainer Michael Matz bolted from his seat and ran onto the track where he embraced Prado. The jockey went over to owner Gretchen Jackson and said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
She put an arm on his shoulder and said, "You did a great job."
"You never expect it," Jackson said as she walked back to the barn.
The devastating development drained all the excitement from a crowd expecting a victory by Barbaro that would have set the stage for a Triple Crown attempt in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.
The Triple Crown talk is over now.
The Preakness went on, though, with Bernardini taking control from pace-setter Like Now and pulling away for a 5?-length victory over Sweetnorthernsaint.
Hemingway's Key was third, followed by Brother Derek, Greeley's Legacy, Platinum Couple, Like Now and Diabolical.
Ridden by Javier Castellano, Bernardini became the first Preakness winner since Red Bullet in 2000 who didn't run in the Derby.
"It's very exciting for everyone, for me especially, to win the Preakness. It's also very, very sad. It's a big disappointment," Castellano said.
Lightly raced, Bernardini took a major step up in class in just his fourth career start. The well-bred son of A.P. Indy came into $1 million Preakness off an impressive win in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on April 29.
The colt now has won three straight after running fourth in his debut, and earned $650,000 for Darley Stable, operated by Dubai's Sheik Mohammed.
Winning time for the 1 3/16 miles was 1:54.65, off the stakes record of 1:53.40.
Bernardini paid $27.80, $9.40 and $5.80. Sweetnorthernsaint, who finished seventh in the Derby, returned $7.80 and $5. Hemingway's Key paid $8.
Winning trainer Tom Albertrani said he did not see Barbaro break down.
"I saw Michael run by me and I knew something was wrong," he said. "You feel very upset when you see something like that."
Barbaro was taken back to his barn, where he was X-rayed, tranquilized and stabilized before being transported the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, a veterinary hospital, in Kennett Square, Pa.
Bramlage said a human would have to spend six weeks in bed with a comparable fracture, and "with a horse that's impossible."