Horse Racing

For Barbaro, Cautious Optimism

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sounding far fresher than he had Sunday evening after complex surgery to save the life of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro , veterinary surgeon Dean Richardson offered a cautiously optimistic prognosis yesterday for the horse's recovery.

"Every day that goes by, the risk diminishes," said Richardson, chief of surgery at the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center. "Every day that goes by that things are still the same, it's very good. If everything goes well, he could be breeding next year, but [that is getting] way ahead of it. We're two days post-op."

Richardson held a briefing on the horse's condition in the morning amid an outpouring of sympathy and support from around the country.

An anonymous donor gave "a very generous gift" to launch the Barbaro Fund for the hospital, which set up a message board on its Web site to field well-wishes. By mid-afternoon, it was filled with hopeful e-mails, many addressed directly to the horse.

"I'm praying for you, Barbaro! [And your humans, as well]," wrote Jamieson Scott , 59, of New York City.

On Sunday, Barbaro underwent surgery to fuse his fractured cannon, sesamoid and long pastern bones. As the heavy favorite to win the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course the previous day, Barbaro galloped about 50 strides out of the gate and was pulled up with multiple bone breaks around his rear right ankle. The long pastern alone had shattered into more than 20 pieces.

Richardson initially said 23 screws had been inserted with a long metal rod to stabilize and fuse the ankle but corrected himself yesterday, saying the operation required 27.

"I was pretty tired and kind of lost track," he said.

Barbaro remains in a stall in the hospital's intensive care unit with a large cast on his damaged leg. His left hoof has been fitted with a special glue-on shoe with extra padding to raise it up to a height equal to his right hind leg.

"The single most important thing is that we maintain his level of comfort on the fractured limb," Richardson said. "We will be changing his cast on a regular basis. We're basically doing good, solid care for the next few months. There are so many things that can go wrong."

-- John Scheinman

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