12/19/2006 12:00AM

Barbaro gets checkup

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Kathy Freeborn
Edgar Prado, left, and Dr. Dean Richardson tend to Barbaro at New Bolton Center earlier this fall.

Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was to have his left foot examined Tuesday by Dr. Scott Morrison, an equine hoof specialist from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky.

But Barbaro's co-owner, Gretchen Jackson, is still keeping mum about the Dynaformer colt's future plans as rumors swirl that he could soon be discharged from the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center clinic.

Jackson confirmed Monday that Barbaro's chief surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson, has arranged for Morrison to examine the colt's left hind foot in Pennsylvania. That is the foot that developed severe laminitis in July, requiring Richardson to remove an estimated 80 percent of the hoof. The hoof is regrowing, Jackson said, and though it will not look normal, the colt has been able to use it.

Barbaro has been in intensive care at the New Bolton Center's large-animal hospital since Mayo20, when he shattered his lower right hind leg during the Preakness Stakes. He underwent surgery to repair multiple fractures on May 21, subsequently developing the laminitis in the opposite hind leg as a complication.

"Everything seems to be moving along," Jackson said. "It's slow, but at least it's moving in the right direction.

"I guess Dean feels Dr. Morrison is very good in his field as far as specializing in laminitis and hoof problems, and being a blacksmith as well as a veterinarian," Jackson added. "I guess it's to see if there is something different that should be done."

Richardson prompted speculation that Barbaro's release from the New Bolton Center could be imminent when he said on Dec. 13, "In my mind's eye, he can leave in the not-so-distant future."

Richardson did not elaborate and declined to give a timeline for the horse's departure when he made the comment at a press conference.

Jackson said that she and her husband, Roy, who bred and own Barbaro together, have been making plans for the day Barbaro leaves New Bolton Center. But she declined to say where they would send the colt after his release.

"As soon as it is possible to say anything, we will be happy to say," Jackson said.

For now, she said, "I'm very optimistic that he's going to be okay. By that I mean in no pain and able to live a decent life."