Kennett Square, Pa. So many people felt a stake in Barbaro's recovery. They imagined his pain, grimaced each time he faltered, took heart as each day passed and he was still alive, making painfully slow progress.
The 2006 Kentucky Derby winner's fight for survival was their fight, a symbol of strength, courage and comfort - and, more than anything else, a source of inspiration.
Finally, it was too much.
Barbaro was euthanized Monday after complications from his gruesome breakdown at last year's Preakness, ending an eight-month ordeal that made him even more of a hero than he was as a champion on the track.
"Certainly, grief is the price we all pay for love," co-owner Gretchen Jackson said.
A series of ailments - including laminitis in the left rear hoof, an abscess in the right rear hoof, as well as new laminitis in both front feet - proved too much for the gallant colt. Barbaro was given a heavy dose of a tranquilizer and an overdose of an anesthetic and put down at 10:30 a.m.
"I really didn't think it was appropriate to continue treatment because the probability of getting better was so poor," said Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of surgery at the New Bolton Center.
Not only did Barbaro win the Derby, he demolished what was supposed to be one of the toughest fields in years. The 6 1â2-length winning margin was the largest since 1946, when Assault won by eight lengths and went on to sweep the Triple Crown.
Barbaro would never get his chance at a Triple. His career, which earned $2,302,200, would end in the Preakness, where that horrible misstep would lead to his only loss in seven starts.