08/08/2006 11:00PM

Barbaro's surgeon encouraged

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Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's surgeon saw encouraging signs Tuesday that the colt's hind legs are healing, according to an update issued Wednesday by the veterinary hospital where Barbaro is being treated for fractures in his right hind leg and laminitis in his left hind.

Dr. Dean Richardson, chief of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center equine hospital, changed the cast on Barbaro's right hind leg late Tuesday afternoon with the colt under general anesthesia.

"The leg looked good under the cast, especially considering the length of time that he has been in a cast," Richardson said.

Barbaro underwent surgery on his right hind leg on May 21, one day after sustaining severe fractures in the Preakness Stakes. Richardson said last week that the leg is stable enough that he normally could have removed the cast and applied a support bandage. But in mid-July the colt developed laminitis, a hoof disease that has required removal of 80 percent of the hoof wall on his left hind. That prompted Richardson to keep Barbaro's right hind leg in a cast to provide the colt with extra support.

"The radiographs also were encouraging," Richardson said of the right hind leg. "There is no sign of active infection. This is further supported by his markedly improving blood values over the last two weeks. He had an excellent pool recovery. He is a very intelligent horse and has definitely figured out the whole process."

Richardson said Barbaro will continue to wear the right hind cast, which encloses the hoof and rises to just below the hock, until the fractures and joint fusions have healed enough to allow the colt to bear full weight on his right leg. Barbaro also is wearing a bandage and protective boot on his laminitic left foot. That is being changed daily.

"It is dry and healthy-looking with excellent early regrowth at the coronary band," Richardson said of the left hoof.

Barbaro remains in intensive care at the center's George D. Widener large animal hospital. The hospital announced it would make its next update on Barbaro's status on Aug. 15, unless his condition changes significantly in the meantime.