07/13/2006 12:00AM

Barbaro condition grave


Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner who fractured his right hind leg in the Preakness Stakes on May 20, has developed the serious hoof illness laminitis in his left rear leg, and his chances of survival have "significantly diminished," Dr. Dean Richardson, the chief of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, said at a press conference Thursday morning.

Asked about Barbaro's chances of survival, Richardson said, "Poor."

"It's very guarded at this point," he said. "But it isn't unheard of" that Barbaro could survive, though the process is now far more complicated and lengthy. "It's a long-shot. I'm not going to sugar-coat it," Richardson said.

Richardson said that Barbaro's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, have made it clear "their only concern is his comfort."

"We're going to go on as long as we can come in every day and be convinced that day and the next he will be acceptably comfortable," Richardson said. "This is a very bad situation right now for the Jacksons. It's hard for us, even more for them. If we quit now, people are going to say we quit too early. If we quit later, people are going to say we did it too late. There's a lot of people involved, and they all care only about his well-being.

"If this stops working, we're going to quit on him, simple as that," Richardson said.

Richardson called the case of laminitis "acute."

"It's as bad a case of laminitis as you could have," Richardson said. Richardson said the colt is under "an intensive pain management regimen" to keep him comfortable.

Laminitis occurs when the soft laminae that connects the coffin bone to the hoof wall is damaged, causing the bone and hoof to separate. "It's exquisitely painful," Richardson said.

Because of the laminitis, a partial hoof-wall re-section was performed on Barbaro's left hind hoof on Wednesday, Richardson said. He is spending part of the day in a sling to help him when he shifts weight, Richardson said.

Richardson said Barbaro was still eating well and nickers when attendants tend to him.

"I don't want anyone to think this is Terry Schiavo," Richardson said, referring to the Florida woman whose brain-damaged condition was a cause celebre two years ago. "He's able to get up and bear weight."

"Two weeks ago, I really thought he was going to make it," Richardson said. "Today, I am not as confident."