Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Jockey Edgar Prado tries to control Barbaro after pulling up on the front stretch during the 131st Preakness Stakes, May 20, 2006, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.
Jockey Edgar Prado tries to control Barbaro after pulling up on the front stretch during the 131st Preakness Stakes, May 20, 2006, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (AP) — Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro is making progress from surgery on his broken leg, even showing an interest in mares, but the colt still faces a long and perilous road to recovery, his surgeon said Monday.
Some notable horses who have been injured in major races:
- Barbaro, 2006 Preakness (survived)
- Charismatic, 1999 Belmont (survived)
- Union City, 1993 Preakness
- Prairie Bayou, 1993 Belmont
- Go For Wand, 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff
- Mr. Nickerson, 1990 Breeders' Cup Sprint
- Shaker Knit, 1990 Breeders' Cup Sprint
- Timely Writer, 1982 Jockey Club Gold Cup
- Ruffian, 1975 match race vs. Foolish Pleasure
- Black Hills, 1959 Belmont
Source: The Associated Press
Dr. Dean Richardson, who performed the intricate five-hour operation, was satisfied with the result, but blunt about the future for a horse that put together an unbeaten record until he broke down in the Preakness Stakes.
Richardson, who operated on Barbaro at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for Large Animals on Sunday, said the horse's chances for survival were still 50-50. He said Barbaro was showing positive signs and "acting much more like a 3-year-old colt should act."
Barbaro was trying to bite in his stall and even showing interest in a group of mares who stopped by to visit.
"There's some mares there, and he's extremely interested in the mares," Richardson told ABC's Good Morning America.
Nevertheless, he emphasized that the horse had a long road ahead and would never race again.
"Realistically, it's going to be months before we know if he's going to make it," Richardson told CBS' The Early Show. "We're salvaging him as a breeding animal."
Barbaro's surgery to repair three bones shattered in his right rear leg at the Preakness went about as well as Richardson and trainer Michael Matz hoped. It wasn't long after surgery when Barbaro began to show signs he might make it after all.
After a dip into a large swimming pool before he was awakened — part of New Bolton's renowned recovery system that minimizes injury risk — Barbaro was brought back to his stall, where he should have been calmly resting on all four legs.
Barbaro had other ideas.
"He decided to jump up and down a few times," Richardson said, smiling. "But he didn't hurt anything. That's the only thing that really matters. It had Michael worried."
That's not much to worry about after the agony of the previous 24 hours. Barbaro sustained "life-threatening injuries" Saturday when he broke bones above and below his right rear ankle at the start of the Preakness Stakes.
His surgery began around 1 p.m., but it wasn't until about eight hours later that Richardson and Matz emerged for a news briefing.
"I feel much more relieved after I saw him walk to the stall then when I was loading him in the ambulance to come up here, that's for darn sure," Matz said. "Nobody knew. It was an unknown area going in. I feel much more confident now. At least I feel he has a chance. Last night, I didn't know what was going to go on."
Unbeaten and a serious Triple Crown threat, Barbaro broke down Saturday only a few hundred yards into the 1 3/16th-mile Preakness. The record crowd of 118,402 watched in shock as Barbaro veered sideways, his right leg flaring out grotesquely. Jockey Edgar Prado pulled the powerful colt to a halt, jumped off and awaited medical assistance.
Barbaro sustained a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle and a broken long pastern bone below the ankle. The fetlock joint — the ankle — was dislocated.
Richardson said the pastern bone was shattered in "20-plus pieces."
The bones were put in place to fuse the joint by inserting a plate and 23 screws to repair damage so severe that most horses would not be able to survive it.
Horses are often euthanized after serious leg injuries because circulation problems and deadly disease can arise if they are unable to distribute weight on all fours.
Richardson said he expects Barbaro to remain at the center for several weeks, but "it wouldn't surprise me if he's here much longer than that."