May 21, 2006

Barbaro’s survival chances 50-50: doctor

By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Barbaro, the horse that stormed to
victory in the Kentucky Derby but broke a leg in Saturday's
Preakness Stakes, survived the life-threatening injury after
more than four hours of surgery, the surgeon who performed the
operation said late on Sunday.

But his chances of longer-term survival are still no better
than 50-50, and it will be many weeks before veterinarians will
be able to say with confidence whether he will live, said Dr.
Dean Richardson of the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton
Center for Large Animals in Kennett Square, Pa.

"This horse is nowhere close to being out of the woods,"
Richardson said in a telephone interview with Reuters. "There
is absolutely no guarantee that he will end up making it."

The horse, whose emphatic Kentucky Derby win had raised
hopes that he would be the first Triple Crown winner since
1978, pulled up dramatically in the first quarter-mile of the
Preakness in Baltimore.

Jockey Edgar Prado jumped off his limping colt and tried to
calm him to prevent further injury.

Many in the record Preakness crowd of 118,402 were in tears
at the sight of the injured horse that had generated widespread
hopes of Triple Crown glory.

The three-year-old colt, unbeaten in six career starts,
broke his right rear ankle in three places: the cannon bone
above the ankle joint; in the long pastern bone below the
ankle, and in the ankle itself.

Richardson said the injuries were so severe that horses in
that condition are usually put down at the track.

Although each of the three injuries are individually fairly
common, the combination is very unusual, and veterinarians
would usually not even attempt to save a horse in that

But owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson wanted Barbaro saved if
possible, and Richardson agreed to perform the surgery.

After the surgery, which included about six hours under
anesthesia, Barbaro was walking around with a half-leg cast on,
and "pulled" his trainers back to his stall, Richardson said.

The dark day son of Dynaformer out of La Ville Rouge now
has 23 screws in his leg, and the aim of the surgery is to fuse
all the bones in the ankle joint.

Richardson said there was no evidence of any pre-existing
injury in Barbaro's ankle, and the likely cause of the
career-ending accident was probably just a bad step.

For now, Barbaro's life will consist of "the equine
equivalent of bed rest" during which he will stay in his stall,
just sleeping and eating, Richardson said.