07/11/2006 11:00PM

Barbaro's prognosis becomes more bleak

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Barbaro's surgeon termed the colt's condition "guarded" and said he faces "tough odds" on Wednesday now that infection has threatened his survival.

"As we said yesterday, Barbaro's condition is potentially serious, and we are aggressively seeking all treatment options," Dr. Dean Richardson said in a release issued Wednesday by the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa. "Today we will focus on further diagnostics and keeping our patient comfortable."

In an interview published Wednesday in the Washington Post, Richardson gave the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner less than 50-50 odds of surviving in light of an infection in his shattered right hind leg.

"He is stable today, and he's got a great appetite, but he's not as good as he was two weeks ago," Richardson said. "Two weeks ago, we were at 50-50. With this new problem, we're less than that."

Richardson was scheduled to hold a press briefing Thursday morning to discuss the 3-year-old's condition. In the meantime, the hospital release noted, Barbaro is being treated both for the fractures he sustained in the May 20 Preakness Stakes and for "discomfort" in his uninjured left foot.

Barbaro's injured right hind leg showed signs of infection last Saturday, prompting Richardson to perform a three-hour surgery to replace the compression plate and many of the screws that are holding the lower leg together while it heals. Barbaro's recovery from anesthesia afterward reportedly took 12 hours, significantly longer than his recovery took after previous surgeries.

"He's facing tough odds, and his condition is guarded," Richardson said in the Wednesday release. "Our entire staff is determined to do all they can for this magnificent horse."

In a New York Times report on Tuesday night, the colt's co-owner, Gretchen Jackson, also revealed that Richardson had identified a bacterial infection in Barbaro's uninjured left hind hoof. Richardson drained that abscess as part of the Saturday surgery.

Barbaro remains in intensive care at the center's George D. Widener Large Animal Hospital.

The left foot's condition is of great concern to Barbaro's veterinary team in large measure because it is vulnerable to stress-related laminitis, a painful and potentially fatal hoof disease that can develop in horses forced to shift weight off an injured leg. So far, there have been no indications of laminitis, also called founder, in Barbaro, Richardson told the Times on Tuesday.