07/29/2006 12:00AM

Matz keeping an eye on Barbaro


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - For the first time in 10 weeks, trainer Michael Matz's day did not include a visit to the George D. Widener Hospital at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania to visit Barbaro.

That's because Matz was in Saratoga on Saturday where he ran two horses on the card. Of course, Barbaro was the major topic of discussion whenever people came up to Matz on the backstretch Saturday morning. Barbaro remains in the intensive care unit at New Bolton, where he's been since shattering his right hind leg in the early stages of the Preakness on May 20.

Matz did receive his daily 6:30 a.m. phone call from Dr. Dean Richardson, the chief of surgery at New Bolton who has played the biggest role in keeping Barbaro alive. Richardson told Matz that Barbaro had another good night Friday and that he continues to do as well as can be expected. It's been just over two weeks since Barbaro was found to have laminitis, a potentially fatal hoof disease, in his left hind foot, and was given a "poor" diagnosis for survival.

On Friday, Matz drove to Saratoga, where his wife D.D. and their four children are spending the first couple of weeks of the meet and where Matz has seven horses stabled in Barn 81, including the promising 2-year-old colt Diamond Fever. Matz has been encouraged by the progress Barbaro has made.

"He's been real good the last two weeks," Matz said. "They started to see a little growth in the coronet band in the foundered foot and Dean was real happy with the X-rays of the leg that was broken."

Matz, who planned to stay in Saratoga through Monday, said he has run through the gamut of emotions since Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

"At one point I thought I was going to win the Triple Crown with this horse, next time I was sort of resigned to the fact maybe it wasn't supposed to be and he's going to come through this and be a great stallion," Matz said. "Then, when this other thing happened, I sort of resigned myself that they were going to put him down. Next morning I go and look, there he is bright-eyed. Every time I had myself resigned to something that was going to happen it never did. I don't think physically I was getting tired, emotionally I never knew what to expect."

Matz gave some insight into Barbaro's daily routine.

"He goes in a sling at 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning," Matz said. "He sits in the sling; he's learned to use the sling. He stays there till 7 o'clock in the evening, they let him go, and he lies down.

"[When] he's anxious to get out of the sling, he moves around a bit, he makes noise like he doesn't like it any more. When he wants to get back in the sling he walks over to where the sling is. He's pretty amazing."

Matz continues to be amazed by the outpouring of support the public has shown, especially since the news broke about Barbaro having laminitis.

"When Dean announced that [Barbaro] had foundered, the next day there were over 35 baskets of carrots, and apples and flowers and mints at New Bolton center," Matz said. "People are sending breakfast for New Bolton Center from a place in New York. . . . The cards keep coming; everyday I get cards. Everybody always asks about him.

"He's fighting. If any horse can get through it, he can do it. That's what I got to keep hoping and try to keep positive."

Coincidentally, Matz was in Saratoga on the day Preakness winner Bernardini was running in the Jim Dandy.

"I'm anxious to see the race," Matz said. "Bernardini's a real nice horse. It sure would have been nice to see them run against each other; that's never going to happen."

Matz was asked if part of him was rooting for Bernardini to lose so that his chances of unseating Barbaro as 3-year-old champion would diminish.

"Right now, I'm more worried about saving his life instead of whether he's 3-year-old champion," he said.