Barbara L was foaled in 1947, a bay daughter of a Thoroughbred stallion named Patriotic and a Quarter Horse broodmare named Big Bess. She was registered with the AQHA as number 146,954. Her sire, or father, was a grandson of Man o' War, while her dam, or mother, descended from the Quarter Horse Peter McCue. Barbara L was registered as bred by James Hunt of Sonora, Texas, and her owner at the time of registration was A. B. Green, of Purcell, Oklahoma.
As a yearling, Barbara L was sold at auction for $140 (approximately $1,400 as of 2013) to a Mr. Lumpkin, who sold horse trailers for a living. She spent the next period of her life demonstrating trailers across Texas before someone suggested that Lumpkin race her. Lumpkin changed her name from "Anthem" to "Barbara L" in honor of his daughter Barbara, who was the filly's first trainer.
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