08/02/2006 12:00AM

Barbaro still showing progress


Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro is showing good signs of healing in his broken right hind leg, according to his surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson.

Richardson, the chief of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, told the Associated Press that the 3-year-old colt might have been out of his right hind cast already if he had not developed laminitis, also called founder, in his left hind leg.

"If he hadn't had the founder on his left hind, he'd probably be out of the cast and he'd probably be in a splinted bandage on the shoe," Richardson said. "That's where we'd likely be. I can't do that because his left hind is the more sore of the two legs right now."

Barbaro developed laminitis in the left hind leg as a result of shifting too much weight off of his injured right leg and onto the healthy left leg, which then foundered because of the additional stress. Last month, Richardson removed 80 percent of the hoof wall on Barbaro's left hind foot.

Richardson told the AP that he likes what he sees so far on the left hind.

"It's too early to see true hoof wall forming," he said. "But the coronary band, the part of the hoof that's the equivalent to the nail bed where the hoof is going to grow down, that looks good."

Richardson said that "it's too early to see a lot" of hoof regrowth. It takes months for a horse to regrow hoof from the coronary band, which is at the top of the hoof, to the ground.

Barbaro fractured his right hind leg in three places and dislocated his fetlock joint soon after the start of the Preakness Stakes on May 20. The next day, Richardson performed surgery to implant 27 screws and a compression plate to stabilize the area in hopes the bone would heal.

X-rays have shown consistent progress in that regard, but Barbaro's right leg might still be too weak to bear additional weight without a cast if he tries to shift more weight off of his laminitic left hind.