My Guy Barbaro: A Jockey's Journey Through Love, Triumph, and Heartbreak With America's Favorite Horse

( 10 )


A new superstar appeared on the American sports landscape in the spring of 2006: Barbaro, a three-year-old racehorse, won the Kentucky Derby by six and a half lengths, the largest margin of victory in sixty years. Barbaro's impressive performance immediately stirred talk of a possible Triple Crown. But in the opening yards of the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, the horse suffered a catastrophic leg injury that ended his undefeated career and left him fighting for his life.


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My Guy Barbaro: A Jockey's Journey Through Love, Triumph, and Heartbreak With America's Favorite Horse

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A new superstar appeared on the American sports landscape in the spring of 2006: Barbaro, a three-year-old racehorse, won the Kentucky Derby by six and a half lengths, the largest margin of victory in sixty years. Barbaro's impressive performance immediately stirred talk of a possible Triple Crown. But in the opening yards of the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, the horse suffered a catastrophic leg injury that ended his undefeated career and left him fighting for his life.

Edgar Prado, a native of Peru and one of the world's top jockeys, rode Barbaro to glory and then stood beside him for months as the horse valiantly struggled to survive and millions of fans held their breath. Having ridden in more than twenty-five thousand races over the previous two decades, Prado thought he had been around too long to fall for any one horse, but Barbaro—intelligent, charismatic, and resourceful in sickness as well as in health—stole his heart.

In My Guy Barbaro, Prado recounts his own story, a tale of grit and dreams that moves from his impoverished childhood in Lima, Peru, to the winner's circles of the greatest racetracks in the world, and memorably chronicles his emotional time with Barbaro before, during, and after the horse's breakdown. Their bond was special and immeasurable. With Prado still reeling from a wrenching personal loss, Barbaro lifted his spirits by giving him “the ride of a lifetime” in the Derby. When the tables turned and the horse needed support two weeks later, Prado was there, going out of his way to make a succession of visits to the New Bolton Center, the animal hospital in Pennsylvania where Barbaro underwent more than two dozen surgeries and was ultimately put down.

Barbaro made worldwide headlines for eight months, and now Prado's poignant, clear-eyed narrative takes us where no reader has gone before—onto Barbaro's back in the heat of a race and into the intensive care suite where Barbaro's life-and-death drama played itself out. My Guy Barbaro is a heartwarming, unforgettable story of a man and his love for a beautiful animal and an irreplaceable teammate.

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Editorial Reviews

Susan Richards
“Edgar Prado’s unadorned prose beautifully captures the trajectory of two lives: his own and that of the horse he would come to describe as a ‘friend, teammate and hero.’ After reading this book, it is difficult to predict who you will love more: Prado or his beloved mount, Barbaro.”
Gary Stevens
“Told firsthand by Edgar Prado, the hardest-working jockey in the game, My Guy Barbaro takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride that will make you feel like you were there with Barbaro every step of the way. I couldn’t put this book down.”
Joe Drape
“This inside look at how a racehorse and jockey communicate and care for each other is at once heartbreaking and harrowing; it chronicles the relationship of two of the sport’s most compelling figures -- Barbaro and Prado. Their tale is wonderfully told, and makes you understand why people love horses.”
New York Post
“Barbaro was one tough horse - winning the Kentucky Derby by 6 1/2 lengths. But it was his courageous, ultimately futile battle after a horrific leg injury in the Preakness that really captured the nation. Veteran jockey Prado touchingly takes readers inside racing and his bond with Barbaro.”
American Way
“A moving testament to the power a sport can have on both its fans and its participants.”
Michael Korda
My Guy Barbaro is good, fast reading because it's clear that Prado is not only a great jockey but also a real horseman, who can take in a horse's strengths and weaknesses at a glance, and figure out what makes it tick. He's even better at describing what makes a jockey tick, the strategy of riding a race, how to get the most out of a horse, and the ways a horse and jockey can bond as a racing team. Prado makes the reader realize how well he and Barbaro understood each other.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In a straightforward narration, Prado (with journalist Eisenberg) relates the brief, poignant story of Barbaro's rise and fall. One of the most successful jockeys in history, Prado sensed Barbaro's special qualities during a race in Maryland. After going undefeated in their first three races together, Prado and Barbaro shared an easy 2006 Kentucky Derby victory that positioned Barbaro to win the Triple Crown. Disaster struck at the Preakness, however, when Barbaro shattered a leg into more than two dozen pieces just out of the gate. His struggle for survival was avidly covered by the media and made the horse a national hero. Sadly, after a prolonged struggle and multiple surgeries, Barbaro had to be put down. Prado's matter-of-fact presentation is most successful when he's describing the routines and rituals and his own intense work habits. His journey from a one-room house in Lima, Peru-which he shared with his parents and 10 brothers and sisters-to a place at the top of his profession is fascinating in its own right. Out of necessity, jockeys try not to get attached to particular horses, but the loss of his mother just before the Kentucky Derby made Prado particularly sensitive to Barbaro's plight. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061464188
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2008
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,098,703
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

Edgar Prado is one of the world's premier jockeys. In February 2008, he became the sixteenth North American jockey to win six thousand races. Later that year he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. Born in Lima, Peru, Prado now splits his time between Hollywood, Florida, and Elmont, New York.

John Eisenberg is a former sports columnist for the Baltimore Sun and is the author of six books, including the acclaimed Native Dancer and The Great Match Race. He lives in Baltimore.

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First Chapter

My Guy Barbaro
A Jockey's Journey Through Love, Triumph, and Heartbreak with America's Favorite Horse

Chapter One

"What a Beautiful Racehorse . . ."

The first time I laid eyes on Barbaro, I finished what seemed like half a mile behind him in the Laurel Futurity, a race for two-year-old thoroughbreds at Laurel Park in Maryland. The date was November 19, 2005, the weather sunny and warm. I was riding another horse, a colt named Creve Coeur. Barbaro had raced just once before and was still so unknown that the track announcer called him bar-BEAR-o. But boy, he was already a rocket. He finished so far ahead of Creve Coeur and the rest of the field that I didn't see much of him other than his rear getting smaller and smaller as he disappeared into the distance.

Almost 11,000 fans were watching in the stands, mostly drawn to the track by the day's featured race, a highly rated short "sprint" event that had brought speedy horses and top jockeys to Maryland from around the country. The Futurity was part of the undercard, the slate of races leading up to the sprint. It was a turf race, run on Laurel's luscious grass course, and it had an impressive history, having been won by superstars such as Secretariat and Affirmed when they were youngsters on the rise back in the 1970s. But no horse of that caliber had won the event in years, so no one expected to see a phenomenal performance. Many of the other twelve horses in the field with Barbaro hadn't raced much and still weren't sure what they were doing.

I had heard a little, very little, about Barbaro before the race. I'm always talking to other people in racing—jockeys andtheir agents, horse owners and trainers, grooms and exercise riders—to stay on top of which horses are running well, where they're running, and whether I might be able to ride them. I vaguely recalled someone somewhere saying that a two-year-old colt trained by Michael Matz had run extremely well in his first race at Delaware Park, a racetrack in Wilmington, Delaware, in early October. But if the horse's name was mentioned, I didn't remember it, and the news pretty much went in one ear and out the other.

It came back to me when I looked around the paddock at Laurel as the horses in the Futurity were being saddled before the race. Barbaro looked like a man among boys. A brown bay with a splash of white between his eyes, he was a towering 17 hands tall—almost six feet—and bulged with muscles through his chest and front shoulders. Most of the other horses in the race were up to a foot shorter and noticeably thinner; they were typical equine teenagers, all legs and painfully gawky. Barbaro was the same age but, with sturdy legs, a broad rear, and a bodybuilder's physique, naturally built to run hard. He wasn't a sleek and slender classic beauty. He was all jock, a toned heavyweight boxer just realizing how hard he could punch.

"My goodness, what a beautiful racehorse," I thought as I watched him from across the paddock.

My admiration only increased when we went out for the post parade, the eight-minute on-track warm-up that takes place before every race. This being my first time on Creve Coeur, I wanted to learn as much as I could about him before the race. Did he follow instructions? Were there moves he didn't like to make? Was he confident or nervous? Such knowledge can make all the difference in a race. I took Creve Coeur on a test drive—asked him to jog, veer to the left, veer to the right, stop suddenly. But while I focused on Creve Coeur, I couldn't help noticing Barbaro. He walked and jogged with a swagger, oozing confidence. Some handsome horses don't have a mind for racing, but he obviously did. Every horse is led through the post parade and up to the starting gate by another horse, a "lead pony," and nervous horses break out sweating before a race or lean against their pony for support because they're afraid. You can tell they would rather be anywhere else. Barbaro, clearly, was right where he wanted to be. His every move shouted, "I'm going to kick your butts!"

My friend Jose Caraballo, a Puerto Rican-born jockey who rides in Maryland and Delaware, was on him. Caraballo had also ridden him when he won his first race at Delaware Park by seven lengths a month earlier. That race had also been run on grass, as opposed to dirt, so I wasn't surprised to see Barbaro as one of the favorites in the Futurity at 3-1 odds. He had a track record, however brief. Several other horses, including a colt named Diabolical, also were being solidly backed, and Creve Coeur, a winner in his previous race, would leave the starting gate at 10-1. But Barbaro stood apart from them all.

At the end of the post parade he went into the starting gate like an experienced pro, unafraid of the tight quarters. When the gate opened and the horses burst out together, Barbaro quickly picked up speed, exhibiting impressive agility for a horse so large. Caraballo moved him up, settling him just behind and to the outside of the hard-charging early leader, a 45-1 shot named Capo dei Capi. I made a similar move on Creve Coeur and ended up two lengths behind Barbaro, off his inside shoulder.

The race was 11/16 miles long, around two turns. We held our positions around the first turn and all the way up the backstretch, a period lasting about forty seconds, and then, as we approached the second turn, Diabolical passed to the inside of me and went for the lead. From where I sat, just behind the frontrunners, I had a perfect view of what happened next.

Capo dei Capi, as expected, reached his limit and slowed down. Caraballo maneuvered Barbaro around him and into the lead, but Barbaro clearly sensed Diabolical creeping up. The big horse accepted the challenge like a hungry bear at feeding time. Caraballo didn't whip him or hit him with the harder stick handle, and didn't even wave the stick in front of him—all tactics a jockey uses to get a horse to run faster. Caraballo just puckered his lips and made a smooching sound. That told Barbaro it was time to go. And did he ever.

My Guy Barbaro
A Jockey's Journey Through Love, Triumph, and Heartbreak with America's Favorite Horse
. Copyright © by Edgar Prado. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2008

    Insirational to horse lovers and fans of horseracing.

    Edgar Prado fell in love with Barbaro when he first layed eyes on him, and wanted to ride him badly. Barbaro was three years old when Edgar stated riding him, and had won so many races together throughout the years.For the past years Edgar and Barbro had built a strong relationship, and at the end it feel apart. Major messages that the boook gave was, follow your dream and never give up even though you may run into bad things. What I liked about the book is that Barbaro inspired so many people to fight and to never give up. What I didn't like about it was the begging, it just didn't seem to get my attention.Someone should read this because, it could inspire you to follow your dream. Overall the rating of the book is that it is really good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2008

    A Champion's tale

    Edgar Prado's account of his time with the late champion Barbaro. He writes passioantely and in a touching manner and the reader is given a true look into the bond between racehose and jockey. A greta read for the racing fan!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2008

    With every page, it was like being there.

    I enjoyed this book very much, and it let me know how much Barbaro meant to his jockey. It seemed as if I was right there with Barbaro especially when Edgar visited him at New Bolton. I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted to know more about this beautiful horse and his caring jockey.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2008

    A reviewer

    Edgar Prado recounts his time spent with, in my opinion one of the greatest horses of all-time, Barbaro. Jockey Edgar Prado gives some insight on his own life and how he shot to stardom, but the main focus on the book is Barbaro. Barbaro captivated almost the entire country with his racing and struggles in 2006. Prado gives insight into his time spent with Barbaro and the effects the horse had on the country as a whole. The book is a great first person perspective on another side of horse racing, the love for horses and not just money. Prado tells an excellent story and gives Barbaro the exposure he still deserves. Also, if you don't feel like crying while reading the book, then I don't think you have a soul.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2008

    The inside story from the man closest to Barbaro

    Edgar Prado's tale of love and loss is one that all people can identify with, not just racing fans. A phenomonally successful jockey in his own right, Prado shot to fame with his Kentucky Derby victory aboard the ill-fated Barbaro. He pens a story about falling in love with a horse and the heartbreak involved with letting him go. It's hard not to tear up at the honest account of Prado's days with the immensely talented and courageous Barbaro. This book also gives great insight into the world of jockeys. But grab a tissue!

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    Posted January 4, 2011

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