- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

No news remains good news for Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, three days after undergoing life-saving surgery to insert 27 screws to repair his right rear ankle, which was broken in three places and dislocated in the Preakness Stakes.

Barbaro had surgery Sunday and continued his tedious recovery yesterday at the George Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center.

“He’s better today than he was yesterday,” Dr. Dean Richardson said during a conference call yesterday morning. “There are many things that could still go wrong, but so far, nothing bad has happened.

“Every day, the risk diminishes a little more,” Richardson added. “Every day that he has no complications makes me happy. If we had this press conference in two weeks and I was still using the same redundant phrases, I’d be happy. When things are the same, it’s very good news.”

Barbaro is being monitored around the clock and will not be led out of his stall for several weeks, unless it’s for a medical procedure. He is expected to stay at the hospital for several months.

In addition to being fed oats, hay, carrots, apples and the occasional mint, grass from a nearby pasture is being hand-picked and delivered to the stall so Barbaro can graze.

There still is a risk of infection invading any of the limbs, the broken ankle not healing properly and Barbaro breaking another leg because of overcompensation.

“Bad things can happen anytime,” Richardson said. “Good things take a long time to happen. It will be a few months before we know. The single most important thing is that we’re able to maintain his level of comfort on the fractured limb. We’re going to be doing good, solid nursing care for the next few months.

“He won’t leave until he’s a happy, walking, painless horse.”

Richardson was asked if horses are being bred differently than decades ago when thoroughbreds would run every couple weeks, as opposed to now, where the emphasis is speed and maximizing a horse’s value as a stallion.

“Categorically, they’re not,” Richardson said. “There’s no evidence that the prevalence of injury in thoroughbred racing is increasing. But horses running fast is still a risky endeavor.”

Barbaro’s co-owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, visited the horse yesterday for the first time since the surgery.

While acknowledging they hope Barbaro can be a stallion, which would mean millions of dollars for the Jacksons, Gretchen Jackson said she wants the horse to first “have a painless life.”

“I hope there’s knowledge out there that owners, trainers and jockeys care about the horse,” she said. “It’s not about the money and the limelight. The integrity does exist on a lot of levels. … All of us connected with this horse have broken hearts. When one becomes a race horse owner, you always say you can’t get to love the animal because it’s so painful when something happens. But we’ve experienced this before to greater and lesser degrees. With each loss, we have to pull ourselves together again.”

Said Richardson: “These people love Barbaro. He’s not being saved just so he can be a stallion. We did a somewhat similar procedure on a gelding a few weeks ago.”

Roy Jackson stayed away from the hospital during the surgery, but stepped into Barbaro’s stall yesterday.

“We’ve run through the gamut of emotions, from the Kentucky Derby euphoria to the devastation of the Preakness to our family,” he said. “The sad part is that the American public won’t get a chance to see Barbaro continue racing. All of us thought that, even though he ran so well in the Kentucky Derby, we hadn’t seen his greatest race.”

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