01/02/2007 12:00AM

Vet gives Barbaro details

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The surgeon for Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro revealed more details Tuesday about the colt's condition and said he is "optimistic" that Barbaro will be able to live comfortably.

But Dr. Dean Richardson, chief surgeon at the University of Pennsylvania's equine hospital, also cautioned that Barbaro's laminitic left hoof presents a long-term challenge.

Richardson reported in an update issued by the hospital that Barbaro's overall condition remains much the same as it has during the last several weeks, and that his veterinary team had modified a special supportive shoe on his right hind hoof as his strength has improved. Barbaro broke his right leg in the Preakness on May 20.

"We are aware that there is some public concern about his abnormal motion on the right hind limb," Richardson said, apparently referring to video the center released to television news outlets in late December. "However, this is not unexpected. His gait may be abnormal as he learns to adapt to having fusions of two major joints in his lower limb and to the special shoe."

Richardson noted that Barbaro's left hoof "must grow much more for him to have a truly successful outcome."

The next update is scheduled for Jan. 16, unless Barbaro's condition changes significantly.