11/02/2006 12:00AM

Barbaro may have cast removed

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro could have his cast removed permanently as early as next week, according to his surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson.

Richardson told reporters at the National Turf Writers Association's annual pre-Breeders' Cup awards dinner Wednesday night that the colt is progressing well but "still has a long way to go," according to an Associated Press report.

"We took X-rays of his right hind leg today, and we're probably going to be removing his cast permanently next week," Richardson said.

The NTWA honored "Team Barbaro" with the organization's Mr. Fitz Award, which is given to an individual or group showing the spirit of racing. The honorees included Barbaro, Richardson, the rest of Barbaro's veterinary team at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center equine hospital, the colt's owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson, jockey Edgar Prado, trainer Michael Matz, and assistant trainer and exercise rider Peter Brette.

Barbaro shattered his right hind leg in the May 20 Preakness and has been in intensive care at the New Bolton Center ever since. He underwent surgery to stabilize the right leg on May 21, then developed laminitis in his left hind leg in July, prompting Richardson to remove an estimated 80 percent of his left hoof.