This was supposed to be a column about victory. It was supposed to be about joy and triumph and promise and all of the things that make sports great. After all, isn’t that why we watch? Every day life is sometimes filled with hardship and losing battles. Sports gives us a chance to feel invincible. This was also supposed to be a column about a little corner of the world tucked into the rolling hills and farms just an idyllic country drive away from Center City. There, in bucolic and rustic Chester County, amidst the Amish farms, Mennonite Meeting Houses, and roadside stands selling pies and jams like some sort of anachronism in our world of ozone-zapping SUVs equipped with GPS guides, DVD players and satellite radio, live some of the best race horses in the world. Imagine that. In a sport filled with sultans, sheiks and blue bloods, it’s puritan Chester County, in the Garden Spot of Pennsylvania, where the top thoroughbreds of the 21st Century are raised. Who would have guessed? But surely no one would have guessed that Saturday’s 131st annual Preakness Stakes would have turned out the way it did, either. To say nothing went right would be an understatement of biblical proportions. Which usually isn’t the way things go for star athletes like Barbaro, the three-year-old colt from West Grove, Pa. who already won the Kentucky Derby so easily that it was akin to a Harlem Globetrotters’ game against the Washington Generals. Barbaro toyed with his competitors in Kentucky. Embarrassed them by 6½ lengths, which is kind of like winning a baseball game 10-0 with the starting pitcher throwing a three-hitter. So dominant was Barbaro in Kentucky that only eight other horses bothered to show up at Baltimore’s venerable old Pimlico Race Course for last Saturday’s Preakness, making the latest Chester County super horse a 1-3 odds-on favorite and conjuring images of Smarty Jones. The talk was that only five horses were going to bother to show up at the Belmont Stakes on June 10 in New York to attempt to thwart Barbaro’s bid to be racing’s first Triple Crown winner since a young Stevie Cauthen rode Affirmed past Alydar in 1978 in three of the most dramatic horse races ever. Instead, Barbaro is currently resting down the road from Smarty Jones’s old farm on Route 10 at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for Large Animals, his prognosis to live to see four still very much touch and go. No, things didn’t go well in Baltimore. First, in an inconceivable scene in a major stakes race, Barbaro burst through the starting gate in attempt to run away from the pack while the last horses were still being loaded in. A false start in horse racing? Who ever heard of such a thing? Then, just seconds into the chaos of the race, something was amiss. Barbaro was nowhere to be found as the TV cameras swept from the head-on shot from the backstretch to the sweeping aerial view of the entire field thundered through the first turn and along the straightaway with the view of the barns and the surrounding clapboard houses in the distance. But dramatically, a quick shot caught jockey Edgar Prado aside his mount, holding it upward to prevent it from putting any more weight on its rear right leg. And then there was the heartbreaking shot of Barbaro, lifting his shattered leg delicately into the air and not knowing what to do next. Yes, the race continued, but did it really matter anymore? Especially when the crass oxymoron “humanely destroyed” was bandied about. So 31 years later, images of Ruffian, the star-crossed filly that so tragically yet romantically “died in the lead,” is conjured as the area’s likely final shot at horse racing glory attempts to recover from an intricate five-hour operation. To save Barbaro, 23 screws were used to repair a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle, and a broken long pastern bone below the ankle. Dr. Dean Richardson, the veterinarian who performed the surgery, said the pastern bone was shattered in “20-plus pieces” and now they must stave off the possibility of infection from the surgery and laminitis, a potentially fatal disease sometimes brought on by uneven weight balance. “Realistically, it's going to be months before we know if he's going to make it,” Richardson told CBS’ “The Early Show.” “We're salvaging him as a breeding animal.” Ruffian, undefeated like Barbaro was, never made it that far. After her 12-hour operation to repair the shattered sesamoids in her right foreleg, a star was laid to rest in the infield near the finish line at Belmont Park.