Prado pays Barbaro a visit

Horse's progress brings smile to face of Preakness jockey

Horse Racing

May 31, 2006|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. -- Jockey Edgar Pardo had tears in his eyes when he saw his Kentucky Derby-winning mount, Barbaro, yesterday for the first time since the horse suffered a life-threatening injury in the Preakness. But a broad smile covered his face later, when he heard Barbaro is doing so well he will not need to have his cast changed for "possibly several weeks."

Barbaro's surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson, said yesterday at the University of Pennsylvania's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals that Barbaro has had an "incredibly good" nine days since he broke his leg in three places in the first 100 yards of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.

"Better than I would have ever hoped," Richardson said. "And the cast change [originally expected to take place early this week] is literally a day-to-day decision I will make. Right now, this horse is walking so well on his limb, he willingly rests his left hind" leg by standing on his injured right one. "He walks around his stall. He's very active.

"So ... there's no absolutely compelling reason to remove the cast. ... There's a possibility that we may just go another day, but if he continues to look as good as he does, he can wear this cast for several more weeks."

With no sign of infection, Richardson said, every day Barbaro can continue to be comfortable within the cast is another good day of healing.

Last week, Richardson said it could be several months before "we know if we have this thing even close to being healed." Asked if that meant Barbaro could be a perfect patient, do everything right and still not heal, Richardson nodded.

"Yeah, it is possible," he said. "There are multiple elements of this injury. To be perfect, he's got to fuse his fetlock joint and his pastern joint, and we have to make sure that he has no major problems like infection, drainage from the site and foundering on the other side.

"So, yes, all these things ... could still go wrong even in two or three months out. It's going to take time. All those bad things could still happen."

But Richardson added the possibility of a serious infection lessens after the first 10 to 14 days, and many horses with broken legs do heal well.

"The bone is the most marvelous tissue in your body. It's the only tissue that can truly heal and be stronger than it ever was," Richardson said. "So it is possible for his bones to heal to the point where they are very, very strong. Barbaro will never be able to do a dressage test. He won't be able to gallop or jump. At the very best, he'll have a hitch in his giddy-up. But there are lots and lots of horses that can walk, trot, canter, spin around and, somewhat importantly, mount a mare. ... It's possible he can be active enough to do all that. But we're way, way, way away from that point."

Prado said: "I definitely feel a lot better" after seeing Barbaro.

"He's still not out of the woods," Prado said. "And I've still got a long way to go to get over my broken heart. After last Saturday, I really wanted to take some time off, but it would have been real hard for me to be home thinking about him. It was better to ride. Seeing him today, seeing how great he looks, helped me a lot."

Prado was again asked about the premature break from the starting gate.

"He heard a noise from the last door [closing] and thought it was time to go," Prado said. "He pushed with his front leg and chest; it wasn't too bad. [When the race began,] he broke out of the gate nice and clean and took four or five strides after that before something happened. A lot of horses go through the gate and don't run their best race afterward, but it doesn't result in injury, and this didn't, either."

Asked if there had been a collision with Brother Derek shortly after leaving the gate and just before the misstep, Prado shrugged.

"I think that will be a mystery. No one knows for sure what happened in the race," he said. "Maybe there was or wasn't, but there is nothing to be gained by looking back. I'm looking to his future and hoping for the best."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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