Derby winner suffers setback in recovery


KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (AP) – Every time the outlook was grim for Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner pulled through like a champ.

After months of upbeat progress reports, news came of a significant setback Wednesday because of the laminitis – a painful, often fatal disease – afflicting his left hind hoof.

Chief surgeon Dean Richardson removed damaged tissue from Barbaro’s left hind hoof, the first bad news weeks after owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson and New Bolton’s chief surgeon Dean Richardson talked about releasing the colt from the hospital by the end of the month.

“Things were marching along pretty smoothly until this,” Gretchen Jackson said. “We’ve been there before with him. He’s a horse that wants to live.”

Richardson was “pulling out all the stops” to save Barbaro, placing him back in a protective sling in his ICU stall at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. The bay colt has been here since shattering three bones in his right hind leg just a few strides into the Preakness on May 20.

“They’re taking extreme measures,” Jackson said. “They’re treating it very aggressively. They’re really pulling out all the stops to help him.”

Barbaro was in stable condition, according to a statement released Wednesday morning by the Center. The tissue was removed Tuesday night.

Jackson said she brought Barbaro grass on Wednesday morning and said the colt’s appearance was “not as bright.” But she added her husband, Roy, visited Barbaro later in the day and he had visibly improved.

The latest blow comes one week after a new cast was placed on Barbaro’s laminitis-stricken left hind foot to help realign a bone.

The cast change could have caused some inflammation, said Dr. Kathleen Anderson, Barbaro’s attending vet when the horse was racing and stabled in trainer Michael Matz’s barn at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

Anderson said Barbaro has proved he was strong enough to overcome his latest medical obstacle.

“We all know most horses don’t get this far,” she said. “The bottom line with Barbaro is the fractured leg is the one that would have been the end of most horses. He won’t be getting to the big green field any time soon, but I don’t think this is insurmountable.”

Barbaro had become uncomfortable on his left hind foot and a cast was removed after some new separation on the inside portion of his hoof was found.

After his injury in the Preakness, Barbaro developed severe laminitis, a potentially fatal disease caused by uneven weight distribution in the limbs – in mid-July. The result was that 80 percent of his left hind hoof was removed.

“I was there (Tuesday) and it was obvious he was not comfortable in that foot,” Jackson said. “The easiest and best way to work on Barbaro is when he’s laying down. They had to wait until he was laying down and when they removed the cast, they discovered some reason for him feeling pain.”

Just over a week ago, Richardson said Barbaro’s right hind was getting stronger and should eventually be healthy enough to allow the colt to live a comfortable, happy life.

But he also warned: “Barbaro’s left hind foot, which had laminitis, remains a more formidable long-term challenge.” The foot must grow much more for him to have a truly successful outcome.”

Still, the Jacksons and Richardson remained optimistic Barbaro could be on a Kentucky farm by the end of January.

“It’s sad that’s he’s had a setback because he was marching along toward living outside the hospital,” Jackson said. “The only thing we care about is that he’s not in pain.”

The disease, called laminitis or founder, involves inflammation and structural damage to tissue that bonds the horse’s bone to the inner wall of the hoof. Richardson said in July that Barbaro’s laminitis was “basically as bad a laminitis as you can have. It’s as bad as it gets.”

AP-ES-01-10-07 1800EST