08/16/2006 11:00PM

Barbaro's sling comes off

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Barbaro's condition has progressed to the point that he no longer is wearing a sling to help him keep his weight off of his injured hind legs. That news came Thursday from the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where the colt remains in intensive care after breaking his right hind leg in the Preakness and subsequently developing severe laminitis in his left hind leg.

The medical center's chief surgeon, Dr. Dean Richardson, is now allowing Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner, hand-grazing sessions lasting about 20 to 30 minutes a day, the hospital said in a statement.

"His blood work is normal, and his vital signs are good," Richardson said. Barbaro has had a very good week."

Richardson has overseen the care of Barbaro care since the night of May 20, when Barbaro arrived straight from Pimlico after the Preakness. Richardson inserted 27 screws and a compression plate in the leg the following day. Despite a subsequent infection, which now appears cleared, in that leg and laminitis in the left leg that required removal of about 80 percent of his hoof, Barbaro has made remarkable progress.

Barbaro had been put in a special sling that allowed him to rest his weight off of his hind legs, but now, said Richardson, "His comfort level has improved to the point that when he was in the sling, he wasn't using it at all."