CRAWFORD | Divining Rod leads Barbaro's owners back to the Preakness
Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who owned Barbaro, return to the Preakness for the first time since Barbaro's injury in the race nine years ago, with Divining Rod.
Friday, May 15th 2015, 11:46 am EDT by
Friday, May 15th 2015, 2:03 pm EDT
BALTIMORE (WDRB) — Strictly speaking, we never used a “divining rod” when I was growing up. We did our “water witching” with a forked branch.
As my dad taught us, you could hold two ends of the branch in your hands, and the long end out in front of you would begin to point down when you walked over water. For us kids, it was a game. Some take it seriously. Divining rods are L-shaped, but are said by proponents to work much the same way.
That's the memory that quickly comes to mind when talking about Preakness Stakes hopeful Divining Rod, whose sire, Tapit, inspired the name, because when using divining rods sometimes you tap them together.
But that memory quickly gives way to another when you realize that Divining Rod is owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and his presence in the Preakness is likely to dredge up a lot more than just water.
The Jacksons owned Barbaro, who nine years ago today was the next great hope for the Triple Crown, and who nine years ago on Preakness Day pulled up with a fractured back leg. For eight months, doctors at the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania worked to save Barbaro, repairing the fracture and setting him on his way to recovery before he died of an infection.
The Jacksons are horse people. They own Lael Stables in West Grove, Pa. Their horses train at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. As breeders, they understand the game from start to finish. Some of the closest people to horses, in my experience, are the people who breed them, who are around them from conception to the time they take their first step.
Those kinds of people, it stands to reason, don't get over something like the premature death of a horse easily. But they also see the life cycle of horses. The understand birth and death. They get up in the morning after big victories and go back to work. They get up in the morning after great disappointments and go back to work. Their focus is on the care of horses, the health of mares, the nurturing of foals and yearlings. They enjoy the victories of today's racing thoroughbreds, but they always have an eye on the next generation.
The Jacksons, even after the national response to Barbaro's injury and death, got up and went back to work. They've saddled eight stakes winners since his death. They've been back to Churchill Downs a handful of times, including when the track dedicated the Barbaro statue that stands in front of the Kentucky Derby Museum entrance.
They've even run horses at Pimlico, the site of Barbaro's tragic injury, 21 of them, according to track officials. They've had entries on Preakness Day, in fact.
But Divining Rod will be their first in the Preakness itself.
If you're looking for something in his entry in the race that marks a kind of closure for them, however, you're looking in the wrong direction.
Divining Rod is in the Preakness because it's the right spot at the right time. Period. The winner of Keeneland's Coolmore Lexington Stakes had amassed enough points to get on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby, but the Jacksons pointed him toward the Preakness all along, thinking that was the better spot.
When he spoke with The Associated Press last week, Jackson said of Barbaro, “It's hard to explain how much interest there is nine years later. There are still a lot of people who loved him and follow the whole thing. . . . You sort of have two choices: you can sit and dwell on it, and that really doesn't accomplish anything. We just chose to move on and go on to new things. We still think about him."
But their hopes, now, rest on Divining Rod, who is the fourth-choice in the Preakness morning line behind the colts who finished 1-2-3 in the Derby. He has been in the money in all five of his career starts.
His trainer, Ardaud Delacour said watching the Derby confirmed that the team had made the right decision to skip it.
“I'm glad I wasn't in there, because that's a tough race, a (big) field,” he said Thursday at Pimlico. “To take on those kind of horses, those are the best 3-year-olds in North America, to me it was better to take them on with the right amount of time between races and in an eight-horse field rather than in a (big) field in the Derby.”
It'll be impossible not to think of Barbaro on Saturday. Coincidentally, the jockey who rode the Preakness winner nine years ago, Javier Castellano on Bernardini, has the mount on Divining Rod.
This particular Divining Rod probably can't help but wind up pointing to a memory that resides deep below the surface. Barbaro probably will flash through Roy and Gretchen Jackson's minds a time or two. That's only human. But their eyes will be firmly on what's ahead.
“We've put all that behind us and can't wait to see what Divining Rod can do," Roy Jackson told the AP. "We hope he'll be competitive, but he deserves to be in the race and given a chance. We hope he has a good trip."
It's a good chance that racing fans everywhere hope he does, too.
Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.