Barbaro takes turn for worse

Monday, January 29, 2007

Surgery was performed again Saturday on the Kentucky Derby winner.

These have been bad days for Barbaro.

The Kentucky Derby winner suffered another significant setback over the weekend, and his fight for survival may have reached a critical point.

After Barbaro developed a deep abscess in his right hind foot, surgery was performed Saturday to insert two steel pins in a bone, one that was shattered but now healthy, to eliminate all weight bearing on the ailing foot.

The procedure is a risky one, because it transfers more weight to the leg.

If the bone were to break again, chief surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson said: "I think we'll quit.

"When things start to go bad, it's like a house of cards," he said Sunday. "If one thing fails, that puts more stress on another part. And if that fails, then you're stuck with managing two problems. That's why these are difficult cases."

The right rear leg was on the mend until recently. It's the one Barbaro shattered at the start of the Preakness Stakes eight months ago, and the three broken bones had completely healed.

Now this. The surgery, in which a cast was removed and replaced by an external brace known as a skeletal fixation device, addresses one problem but could create others.

Barbaro likely will have to bear more weight on his front feet because of his two ailing back legs, making him more susceptible to laminitis, a painful and often fatal disease caused by uneven weight distribution. Laminitis already struck Barbaro's left rear foot in July, and 80 percent of the hoof was removed.

"It's something that we are watching closely, and that could also be a thing that could lead to us quitting," Richardson said.

The colt was doing well Sunday, according to Richardson, and "we will continue to treat Barbaro aggressively as long as he remains bright, alert and eating," he said in an update sent out by the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center.

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