Friday, July 14, 2006
KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. - Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro has developed a severe case of laminitis, a potentially fatal disease caused by uneven weight distribution in the limbs, and his veterinarian called his chances for survival “a long shot.”
Dean Richardson, the chief surgeon who has been treating Barbaro since the colt suffered catastrophic injuries in the Preakness on May 20, said the Derby winner’s chances of survival are poor.
“I’d be lying if I said anything other than poor,” Richardson said Thursday at a news conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center.
“As long as the horse is not suffering, we’re going to continue to try” to save him. “If we can keep him comfortable, we think it’s worth the effort.” If not, Barbaro could be euthanized at any time.
Richardson said if Barbaro doesn’t respond quickly to treatment, “It could happen within 24 hours.” Richardson said the laminitis, a painful condition, has all but destroyed the colt’s hoof on his uninjured left hind leg.
“The left hind foot is basically as bad a laminitis as you can have. It’s as bad as it gets,” Richardson said, while adding that horses can recover from the disease. He said he has discussed the situation closely with owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who have stressed that their main concern is for Barbaro to be pain free.
Richardson said Barbaro’s injured right hind leg — the one that shattered at the start of the Preakness — is healing well, but because a horse has to be evenly balanced to carry his weight, laminitis set in on the other foot.
A procedure called a hoof wall resection removed a large portion of Barbaro’s left rear hoof.
“He is in a foot cast at this moment,” Richardson said. “We’ll see if can regrow his hoof. We’re talking about months and months and months. What we’re doing on this horse is absolutely unusual, but it’s not unheard of.”
The grim update came after nearly six weeks of what was considered to be a smooth recovery. Barbaro underwent five hours of surgery May 21 so a titanium plate and 27 screws could be inserted into three broken bones and the pastern joint. He has had three more operations in recent days.
“I really thought we were going to make it two weeks ago,” Richardson said. “Today I’m not as confident.” Barbaro won the Derby by 6-1/2 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 day.
At that time, Richardson said the chances of the horse’s survival were 50-50.
Since the break down, there has been a public outpouring of sympathy as well-wishers, young and old, showed up at the New Bolton Center with cards, flowers, gifts and goodies. And thousands of e-mails poured in to the hospital’s Web site to voice concern and support.
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