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News not good for Barbaro

Colt's condition termed 'guarded'

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. -- Weeks of good news about Barbaro have suddenly taken an alarming tone.

Words like ``potentially serious" have turned up more than once in the past few days to describe his condition.

Yesterday, ``tough odds" was how the veterinarian treating the Kentucky Derby winner described the 3-year-old's chances for recovery from the catastrophic injuries suffered in the Preakness.

Barbaro, who shattered three bones in his right hind leg May 20, has undergone three surgical procedures in the past week. In the most recent one, Saturday, Dr. Dean Richardson replaced the titanium plate and 27 screws and treated two infections -- one in the injured leg and a small abscess on the sole of his uninjured left hind hoof.

``Our entire staff is determined to do all they can for this magnificent horse," Richardson said in a statement issued by the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, where he is chief surgeon at the New Bolton Center.

Still, the doctor didn't mince words: ``He's facing tough odds, and his condition is guarded."

The colt's condition is scheduled to be discussed at a news conference today.

A major concern centers on the infection in the right rear pastern joint -- located above the hoof that was shattered into more than 20 pieces. While most of the fractured bones have healed, the joint that connects the long and short pastern bones remains problematic.

Saturday's surgery lasted three hours, and Richardson replaced the hardware that had been inserted into the leg the day after the Preakness.

Until the recent setbacks, Barbaro's recovery had been going smoothly. Even yesterday, owner Gretchen Jackson cited the good things: ``He's eating, his temperature is normal, his bloodwork is excellent, his pulse rate is good."

Her husband, Roy, however, conceded the sudden changes in Barbaro's condition made this a tough week.

``We've been concerned all along," he said. ``It's just one of those things. It's very difficult to climb the mountain when something like that happened."

The New Bolton Center was quiet yesterday, devoid of the fruit and floral deliveries that arrived almost one after the other shortly after the colt first was admitted. There were no visitors tacking their homemade signs expressing prayers and well wishes to the fence that surrounds the 650-acre campus. Inside, only a smattering of cards remained.

``It's slowed down a bit, but we're still getting notes from time to time," Roy Jackson said. ``We've gotten a lot of things from kids."

Barbaro won the Derby by 6 1/2 lengths, was unbeaten in six races, and expected to make a Triple Crown bid before his misstep ended his career. He was taken to the New Bolton Center hours after breaking down and underwent five hours of surgery the next day.

Richard Rosenblatt of the Associated Press in New York contributed to this report.

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