KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. -- Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro seemed fine yesterday after surgery to repair his broken hind leg, even showing an interest in mares, but the colt still faces a long and perilous road to recovery.
Dr. Dean Richardson, who performed the intricate five-hour operation, was satisfied with the result, but was blunt about the future for a horse who was unbeaten before breaking down in the Preakness Stakes.
Richardson, who operated on Barbaro at the George D. Widener Hospital of Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center Sunday, said the horse's chances for survival were still 50-50.
Michael Matz, who trained the 3-year-old colt to six straight wins before the grotesque injury ended its unbeaten run Saturday, paid the horse a visit yesterday and was encouraged by what he saw.
``He looked pretty bright just now," Matz said. ``You can't ask for anything more. He was very alert and seemed fine."
Barbaro, fitted with a fiberglass cast, was standing in his stall at the center's intensive care unit earlier yesterday and showed interest in several mares in the vicinity.
``He got through the night very well, day one and into day two is going as well as expected," Corinne Sweeney, a veterinarian and the hospital's executive director, said. ``He is standing on the leg, and with the appropriate amount of weight on it.
``He also showed appropriate interest in the mares, which means he's acting like a young colt should."
After his afternoon visit, Matz smiled often -- an improvement over the evident fatigue of the night before.
``We've got the first step accomplished," he said. ``He seemed fine. It's a new thing for him also to have this big thing on his leg and hopefully he's adjusting to it very well."
Sweeney said there are two major concerns in the first days of recovery, the possibility of infection from the surgery and laminitis, a potentially fatal disease sometimes brought on by uneven weight balance.
``He's doing exactly what the doctor wants, but he's got a long road ahead," Sweeney added. ``A lot of possible problems that could occur have not.
Earlier yesterday, Richardson emphasized the horse had a long road ahead, and would never race again.
``Realistically, it's going to be months before we know if he's going to make it," Richardson told CBS' ``The Early Show." ``We're salvaging him as a breeding animal."
Barbaro's surgery to repair three bones shattered in his right rear leg at the Preakness went about as well as Richardson and Matz hoped. It wasn't long after surgery when Barbaro began to show signs he might make it after all.
After a dip into a large swimming pool before he was awakened -- part of New Bolton's renowned recovery system that minimizes injury risk -- Barbaro was brought back to his stall, where he should have been calmly rested on all four legs.
Barbaro had other ideas.
``He decided to jump up and down a few times," Richardson said, smiling. ``But he didn't hurt anything. That's the only thing that really matters. It had Michael worried."
That's not much to worry about after the agony of the previous 24 hours. Barbaro sustained ``life-threatening injuries" Saturday when he broke down only a few hundred yards into the 1 3/16ths-mile Preakness. The record crowd of 118,402 watched in shock as Barbaro veered sideways, his right leg flaring out grotesquely.
Barbaro sustained a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle, and a broken long pastern bone below the ankle. The fetlock joint -- the ankle -- was dislocated.
Richardson said the pastern bone was shattered in ``20-plus pieces."
The bones were put in place to fuse the joint by inserting a plate and 23 screws to repair damage so severe that most horses would not be able to survive it.
Barbaro's injury came a year after Afleet Alex's brush with catastrophe at the Preakness. Turning for home, the horse was bumped by another and nearly knocked to his knees before gathering himself and going on to win.