Barbaro takes turn for better

Derby winner `acceptably comfortable'

jockey Prado pays visit

July 15, 2006|By PAUL MCMULLEN | PAUL MCMULLEN,SUN REPORTER

Kennett Square, Pa. -- The waiting game continued last night for Barbaro, his owners, his trainer and the doctors treating him.

It has been a tumultuous week for the Kentucky Derby winner who pulled up in the Preakness, but yesterday his veterinary surgeon provided two separate encouraging updates that were markedly different in tone than the ominous prognosis he delivered Thursday.

"His vital signs, including heart rate and pulse, remain good," Dr. Dean Richardson said in a statement released by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine at 4 p.m. yesterday. "We are treating his laminitis aggressively, and he continues to respond well and is acceptably comfortable."

Those last two words are crucial, as the pain a thoroughbred is experiencing is a major factor in the deliberations involved in deciding whether to euthanize. Richardson raised that possibility for Barbaro on Thursday, but he sounded more upbeat yesterday.

"We monitor his condition very closely because signs can change quickly," Richardson said in the most recent statement. "However, it's important to remember that Barbaro's treatment could easily continue for several weeks, and if all goes well, even months. Our goal is to keep him as comfortable as possible, and clearly that comfort level will be a major indicator for our treatment decisions."

The colt's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, and trainer Michael Matz are in constant communication with Richardson.

Matz trained Barbaro at Fair Hill, in Cecil County. The Jacksons live a few miles from the New Bolton Center, where Barbaro has been in the intensive care unit of the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals since the night of the Preakness on May 20.

Yesterday morning's visitors included Edgar Prado, the jockey who was on the last four of the six straight victories that made Barbaro such a distinguished 3-year-old. At Belmont Park, Prado told the New York Post that he left New York at 4:30 a.m. yesterday to come to Kennett Square.

"He [Barbaro] looked much better than I thought he would," Prado said. "He is very smart, and he knew me right away. I fed him, walked with him, and he put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep."

Again yesterday a steady stream of florists made deliveries, ranging from a horseshoe arrangement to a single orchid. An office worker removed carrots from one basket and took them to the ICU, saying that Barbaro liked them the best.

An earlier statement released yesterday said that Barbaro had "a calm, restful night," Thursday into yesterday.

"Barbaro was out of his sling for more than 12 hours yesterday [Thursday], and he had a calm, restful night, sleeping on his side for more than four hours. While his condition is stable, it remains extremely serious."

Barbaro's medical crisis began less than a furlong into the Preakness, when he suffered three fractures in his right hind leg.

Those injuries, which shook a massive crowd at Pimlico Race Course and a national television audience, required more surgery last Saturday. Wednesday morning, the horse underwent a partial hoof wall resection to treat what Richardson described as a "catastrophic" case of laminitis in his left hind leg.

Laminitis, an inflammation of the tissue that connects the pedal bone to the inner hoof wall, can be caused by excessive weight on one limb, according to the initial statement released yesterday. For nearly two months, Barbaro's right hind leg has been in a cast, placing additional stress on his left hind leg. Now it's also in a cast.

Barbaro continued to spend most of his time yesterday in a sling supporting his 1,200 pounds.

Richardson and the crew treating him have been inundated with suggestions of alternative therapies, such as treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

"There's no book to go to," Richardson said Thursday. "We're not trying to do anything outrageously experimental. At the same time, we'll do anything scientifically reasonable. We have been besieged with offers of help. I don't begrudge those offers, but if we were to use all of them ... "

On Thursday, Richardson was asked to supply a timetable on the direction Barbaro's recovery was taking.

"Good things take time," he said. "Bad things come in a hurry."

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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