Barbaro condition turns again

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, July 13, 2006

No one has given up on Barbaro.

Not the owners who visit him daily in his ICU stall. Not the fans who came to wish him well. Certainly not his dedicated vet, who is determined to do everything he can to save the life of the Kentucky Derby winner.

Barbaro will need all the help he can get after a week where every glint of optimism has been dashed by even more disheartening, alarming news.

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On Wednesday, “tough odds” was how Dr. Dean Richardson described the 3-year-old’s chances for recovery from the catastrophic injuries suffered in the Preakness.

Barbaro, who shattered three bones in his right hind leg May 20, has undergone three surgical procedures in the past week. In the most recent one, Saturday, Richardson replaced the titanium plate and 27 screws and treated two infections — one in the injured leg and a small abscess on the sole of his uninjured left hind hoof.

“Our entire staff is determined to do all they can for this magnificent horse,” Richardson said in a statement issued by the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, where he is chief surgeon at the New Bolton Center.

Still, the doctor didn’t mince words: “He’s facing tough odds, and his condition is guarded.”

The colt’s condition is scheduled to be discussed at a news conference Thursday. No one has seriously discussed putting down the horse, with Richardson likely to explain what’s in the immediate future for the strapping colt.

A major concern centers on the infection in the right rear pastern (ankle) joint — located above the hoof that was shattered into more than 20 pieces. While most of the fractured bones have healed, the joint that connects the long and short pastern bones remains problematic.

Saturday’s surgery lasted three hours, and Richardson replaced the hardware that had been inserted into the leg the day after the Preakness.

Until the recent setbacks, Barbaro’s recovery had been going smoothly. Even on Wednesday, owner Gretchen Jackson cited the good things: “He’s eating, his temperature is normal, his bloodwork is excellent, his pulse rate is good.”

Her husband, Roy, however, conceded the sudden changes in Barbaro’s condition made this a tough week.

“We’ve been concerned all along,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s very difficult to climb the mountain when something like that happened.”