Doctor: 'Tough days ahead' for Barbaro

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. -- Barbaro's perilous road to recovery
has suffered its biggest setback yet.

"I think we're in for tough times right now. I think we're
going to have some tough days ahead. I'm being
realistic about it. When a horse has a setback like this, it's a
Dr. Dean Richardson

The Kentucky Derby winner faces major problems for the first
time since surgery to repair the right hind leg he shattered in the
Preakness seven weeks ago. And the colt's veterinarian says "we're
in tough times right now."

Barbaro had a new cast applied for a sixth time Monday -- the
fourth change in a week. The latest development followed three
hours of surgery Saturday night when doctors replaced the titanium
plate and many screws and also treated an infection.

"I think we're in for tough times right now. I think we're
going to have some tough days ahead," Dr. Dean Richardson said at
the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center. "I'm being
realistic about it. When a horse has a setback like this, it's a

Richardson, the chief surgeon at the New Bolton Center, looked
haggard during the briefing, and said it took more than 15 hours
from the start of Saturday's surgery until Barbaro had fully
recovered from anesthesia.

"We went six weeks with nothing going wrong, essentially and
one week where we've had things we've been dealing with,"
Richardson said. "There's no question this is a setback and we're
trying to address the problems."

He said Barbaro was back in his stall in the intensive care
unit, where he's been since the catastrophic injury occurred a few
hundred yards after the start of the Preakness.

"Right now, he's happier," Richardson said. "He's got a
normal heart rate, normal temperature, he's eating like crazy. He's
very hungry. He's making lots of manure. He looks actually pretty
happy today. Now we have to see how he responds to what's going

Last Monday, Barbaro had the cast on his injured leg replaced
and three new screws inserted. On Wednesday, another new cast was
applied after the horse showed discomfort. A small abscess on the
sole of his left hind hoof also developed.

Richardson said Barbaro's main fracture was healing well, but
the pastern joint -- located above the hoof which was shattered into
more than 20 pieces -- continues to be a concern. The joint, which
doctors are attempting to fuse, was stabilized with "new implants
and a fresh bone graft."

"Maybe we've been lucky that we haven't had any big problems,"
owner Roy Jackson said. "Then a little problem like this crops up.
The whole recovery is a difficult thing."

The long cast applied Saturday night was replaced by a shorter
cast Monday, and "was done with Barbaro in a sling and under mild
sedation," Richardson said.

"The long cast was used as extra support during the anesthetic
recovery phase," Richardson said. "It is much easier for him to
move around his stall and get up and down with a short cast. We
also found and treated an abscess in his left hind foot that was
bothering him."

Barbaro is receiving pain medication, antibiotics and other
supportive care, Richardson added.

Richardson said he never expected Barbaro to be in this
situation a week ago because of what had been a smooth recovery.
But a fever, a swollen pastern joint and the infection derailed the
strapping 3-year-old colt's recovery.

There's reason for optimism, though, especially if Barbaro
responds well to his latest surgery.

"If he stays comfortable, then I think we're OK," Richardson
said. "If we can't get him comfortable than it's going to be a
difficult problem."

The infection developed in the leg in which the plate and 27
screws were inserted after Barbaro's breakdown at Pimlico Race
Course in Baltimore.

After Barbaro showed discomfort and had a "consistently" high
fever, the plate and screws were replaced and the infection treated
late Saturday night.

"It's one of those setbacks that we've prepared ourselves for
as best we can," owner Gretchen Jackson said Monday. "Sure it's
disappointing, but we've been warned. ... But a lot of bone has
healed, a lot. There's a lot of good stuff. And the horse is
incredibly strong, healthy and we've got to keep the faith."

The Jacksons, who live in nearby West Grove, Pa., and trainer
Michael Matz continue to visit Barbaro.

"He looks all right," Roy Jackson said. "He looks fairly

That's a good sign, for now. Richardson said there was no reason
to think that Barbaro's life was in immediate jeopardy, and he
never discussed with the Jacksons putting the colt down.

"We're not at that stage, no," Richardson said. "That never
was even brought up as close to a topic of conversation. The issue
is what's the best thing for the horse."

Barbaro won the Derby by 6½ lengths, was unbeaten in six races
and expected to make a Triple Crown bid before his misstep ended
his racing career. He was taken to the New Bolton Center hours
after breaking down and underwent five hours of surgery the next

At that time, Richardson said the chances of the horse's
survival were 50-50.