May 23, 2006 1:25 AM

Even the Las Vegas books felt bad for Barbaro.

"Yes we did very well with the race, but nobody was happy," said Ben Panzarella, Race Book supervisor at The Orleans. "The Derby had us all screaming for Barbaro. The Preakness was very subdued."

The concern, of course, was about saving the life of Barbaro, who went from superhorse to tragic figure after roughly 100 yards. Unfortunately, all the bettors who had Barbaro in win wagers, exacta boxes, trifectas and superfectas were out their investment right away.

"No, once the race starts there is no chance at a refund," Panzarella said. "The only way for a refund is if the horse is a scratch prior to the race and clearly this was not the case."

It would have been a different story for bettors if Barbaro’s owners decided to remove their prized horse from the field after bolting from the starting gate early.

"Had that happened, it would have been a scratch," Panzarella said. "But that’s Pimlico’s call and Barbaro appeared fine after the early departure from the gate."

All Panzarella could offer disappointed patrons was sympathy.

"Hey, even my pop in New York had the 5-6 quinela with Barbaro on top.," he said. "What can you do? That’s racing at it’s saddest, with tears flowing." — Mark Mayer