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Broken ankle dooms Barbaro's Triple Crown bid

BALTIMORE -- His career certainly over and his life in jeopardy, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro left Pimlico Race Course with a police escort at 7:18 Saturday evening and was taken to the New Bolton Center of the University of Pennsylvania in Kennett Square, Pa. There, surgeons will perform surgery in an attempt to save his life.

New Bolton is about 75 miles from Pimlico.

According to Dr. Larry Bramlage, the media liaison for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Barbaro broke his right hind leg in two places. One fracture was above the ankle and the other was below it. He called the injury "life-threatening."

Bramlage refused to predict whether Barbaro would survive the ordeal, but he conceded that the colt has a fight on his hands.

"I can't give you a prognosis; it's a little early," Bramlage said, adding that even if the surgery is successful, "it will be two months before he is out of the woods."

He said there are two major obstacles Barbaro will face in his potential recovery. One, he said, is whether Barbaro lost a significant amount of blood in the area of the injury. The other, he said, is how he comes out of the surgery and whether further damage is caused to the injured area while he is recovering. Horses must have some mobility while recovering from surgery to avoid complications.

"You and I would lie in bed," Bramlage said. "He'll have to walk around."

Dr. Dan Dreyfuss, Barbaro's attending veterinarian, also declined to speculate whether the horse will have to be euthanized.

"That's up to the owners," he said.

Bramlage said the surgeons at New Bolton will have to evaluate Barbaro's condition before they decide when to operate.

"It could be tonight," he said. "It might be tomorrow."

Bramlage said the occurrence of the second fracture is what sets this injury apart from more minor ones.

"Normally, the way it happens is the fracture above the ankle occurs first," he said. "Before [jockey] Edgar [Prado] could pull him up, the second fracture occurred. It's like if you were in a football game and twisted your ankle badly. The problem is, people know enough to stop. He ran on and that caused the second component to the injury."

Barbaro broke through the starting gate prior to the start, but Bramlage did not believe that had anything to do with the injury.

It was an emotional scene in the Pimlico barn area after the race as several hundred onlookers and members of the media tried to get a glimpse of what was happening with the horse. Trainer Michael Matz got into a silver Lexus SUV and left just moments before the horse. As he was getting into the car, someone shouted, "Good luck, Michael." Another person yelled out, "We're praying for him."

Matz turned to the crowd and gave a brief wave before getting into the car.

Prado told the media Barbaro felt great before the race.

"When he went to the gate, he felt super and I felt like he was in the best condition for this race," he said. "He actually tried to buck me off a couple of times. He was feeling that good. He just touched the front doors of the gate and went right through it. During the race, he took a bad step and I can't really tell you what happened. I heard a noise about 100 yards into the race and pulled him right up."