"Barbaro is doing very well. He's actually better today than he was even yesterday, and he was pretty good yesterday," Dr. Dean Richardson reported in a Tuesday morning news briefing at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where the classic winner was resting two days after surgery
to repair multiple fractures in his right hind leg suffered in Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
"He's feeling very good," said Richardson, the surgery dean at New Bolton who led the surgical team through a lengthy procedure attempting to fuse Barbaro's ankle Sunday afternoon and evening. "He's walking very well on the limb. He's got absolutely normal vital signs today: his temperature, pulse, respiration, attitude, and appetite. We have no shortage of volunteers to hand-pick him grass, so he's grazing at a distance. He's doing very well."
Richardson, who was joined at the New Bolton Center by Barbaro's breeders and owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, said he wanted to clarify one comment he made following Sunday's surgery about saving the horse for the breeding shed.
"I made a big point about the optimal outcome is that he'd be salvaged for breeding," Richardson said. "Some people are taking that the wrong way. I want everyone to know that if this horse were a gelding, these owners would have definitely done everything to save this horse's life. I've known the Jacksons a long time. This horse could have no reproductive value and they would saved this horse's life. Just a couple of weeks ago we did an extensive salvage of a gelding."
Richardson added that he mistakenly said 23 screws were used in the procedure to fuse the ankle. "I think my resident (assistant) told me there were 27," he said. "I kind of lost track."
Roy Jackson thanked many people for their efforts to save Barbaro, including jockey Edgar Prado, outriders and other Pimlico staff, trainer Michael Matz and assistant Peter Brette, track veterinarians, in addition to Dr. Scott Palmer (who was attending the race as a spectator and "jumped in" to help), city and state police officers who provided an escort from Pimlico, and the staff of the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa.
"We've run through the gamut of emotions from the Kentucky Derby of euphoria to the devastation of the Preakness in our family and Gretchen and I," he said. "I think we've gone through our own personal feelings. I think the sad part is in Barbaro's case that the American public won't get a chance to see him continue his racing career.
"We hope all of you here will be able to see little Barbaros," said Jackson, who later said Barbaro is insured for mortality and for breeding purposes.
Regardless of whether Barbaro recovers sufficiently to stand at stud, Gretchen Jackson said her hope for the horse is that he "lives a painless life."
"He is a beautifully conformed horse and he is striking and sensible and has always done the right thing at the right time. My hope for him is that he lives a painless life. It must be a pain-free life," she said.
Hundreds of well wishers have sent cards, flowers, apples, and carrots to New Bolton Center, and the hospital is establishing a link to a Web site for fans to send e-mails in care of Barbaro
. "We don't have a keyboard in his stall yet, so I don't know how that is going to work out," Richardson said light-heartedly.
In addition, after an anonymous donor made what was a called a "very generous" gift, the Barbaro Fund for the George D. Widener Hospital at New Bolston Center was established--not to provide financial assistance for the classic winner but for the hospital instead, which in addition to providing a care and surgical facility conducts numerous research projects to improve veterinary medicine. Information can be found at Barbaro Fund
Richardson continued to reiterate that while the Dynaformer
colt is off to a good start with his recovery, it is a lengthy process fraught with the possibility of setbacks. The colt's prognosis for recovery is still 50-50.
"I have tried to emphasize that bad things can happen at any time," Richardson said. "It will be few months before we know if this can even heal. If we can keep him comfortable on his right hind limb is the most important thing we are looking for. We are basically doing good solid nursing care for the next several months. There are a lot of things that can do wrong."
Among the physical problems that could impact Barbaro's recovery is laminitis, which would occur in his left hind leg that bears an inordinate amount of the animal's weight due to the injury in the right rear leg. Richardson said that Barbaro was equipped with a special padded shoe in his left rear in an effort to relieve some of the pressure that could lead to laminitis.
Richardson said the cast supporting the injured right rear leg would be changed next week, at which time radiographs of the injury will be taken.
The surgeon declined to estimate how long Barbaro would remain at New Bolton. "He won't leave here until he's a happy walking horse who will be comfortable. He probably will be here at least for a few months. He won't be out of the woods until he heals. How long does it take to heal? Months."
Richardson continued to try to put to rest nagging questions about whether Barbaro was injured when he prematurely broke from the Preakness starting gate and had to be reloaded for the race to begin.
"I think it is exceedingly unlikely the horse injured himself breaking from the gate," Richardson said. "The horse jogged back to the gate and broke out of the gate well. This is a single catastrophic accident."