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Barbaro progressing nicely; Prado visits

In this photo provided by the University of Pennsylvania shows jockey Edgar Prado, kissing Barbaro at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, Tuesday, May 30, 2006 in Kennett Square, Pa. Prado paid his first visit to Barbaro since pulling up the colt early in the Preakness. (AP Photo/The University of Pennsylvania, Sabina Louise Pierce)

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. --Ten days after his awful breakdown in the Preakness, Barbaro is progressing so well even his surgeon is impressed, though he conceded the colt will have a "hitch in his giddyup."

After initially saying the Kentucky Derby winner's chance for survival was a "coin-toss" -- 50-50 -- Dr. Dean Richardson was happy to amend it.

"I was going to call a news conference to say it's officially 51 percent," the surgeon said, smiling. "Seriously, every day that goes by is a big day."

Though upbeat, Richardson was quick to temper his enthusiasm, adding that there's still a long way to go before Barbaro can be discharged. And even with a full recovery, still many months away, the horse will be limited in what he can do.

"He will never be able to do a dressage test. He won't be able to gallop, he won't be able to jump. He will have, at the very best, a hitch in his giddyup," Richardson said during a news conference at the University of Pennsylvania's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, where he and a team of assistants performed more than five hours of surgery on Barbaro the day after the Preakness.

"He will not be quite right, but there's lots and lots of horses that can walk, trot, canter, gallop, spin around and somewhat importantly, mount a mare ... all those things that you use your hind legs for," he added. "That's their hope, that he can do all those things. We are way, way away from that."

Still, there were good signs.

The hoof-to-hock fiberglass cast on Barbaro's right hind leg may stay put a few more weeks because Richardson said there's no compelling reason to change it.

"If he continues to look as good as he does, he can wear this cast for several more weeks," he said. "He's had an incredibly good week -- far better than I would have ever hoped so far."

The risk of infection diminishes after the first 10-to-14 days of recovery, but other problems can occur later, including laminitis, an often fatal foot disease, or, in this case, the shattered bones not healing properly.

"Things are definitely better eight days post op," he said.

The sunny outlook, so far, is in sharp contrast to the shock and sadness that reverberated throughout the nation on May 20 when Barbaro's right hind leg flared out awkwardly just after the start of the race at Pimlico.

His run for the Triple Crown was no longer what counted; his very survival was at stake.

Edgar Prado saw Barbaro for the first time since the Preakness break down, stopping by his stall in the intensive care unit for a 10-minute visit. The jockey has been credited with saving the colt's life by pulling him up quickly to avoid further injury.

"I definitely feel a lot better," said a smiling Prado, who arrived in a black stretch limousine. "I'm feeling heartbroken, but I'm feeling better. His progress is helping a lot, but he isn't out of the woods yet. We're just happy that he continues to do good."

Back for their daily visit were owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson, accompanied by their daughter, Lucy, and her husband, Tom Zungailia.

"It's unbelievable what's happened," Lucy Zungailia said. "Everyone has been so great, and the horse is doing so well."

Richardson said his prized patient has shown the ability to adapt from one extreme to another: Two weeks ago the horse was spending every morning galloping around a track, and now spends 24 hours a day in his 12-by-12 stall barely moving. A good attitude has been a huge help.

"It makes a big difference in terms of how well they rest," Richardson said. "Certain horses rest well. They figure out how to take care of themselves in a stall, how to lie down and get up without injuring themselves. I think this horse, so far, has shown every evidence that he is that type of horse.

Prado has been asked time and again to replay the start of the Preakness, especially when Barbaro broke early from the gate and was reloaded for the official start. Much has been written about the possibility Barbaro may have been injured the first time out of the gate.

"He was feeling so good in the post parade, he was ready," Prado said. "Unfortunately, he heard a noise from the last door (closing) and thought it was time to go."

Prado said Barbaro pushed open the starting gate, which is controlled by magnets, with his head and front leg but "I didn't think that was real bad."

Prado said he checked out the horse, as did a vet at the track, "and he was jogging fine. ... So we led him back into the gate."

When the field broke, Barbaro got off "nice and clean," Prado said. He said the colt "took about four strides and then the incident happened."

"A lot of horses go through the gate and they probably don't run their race -- but they don't break down three or four jumps out of the gate," he said.

The Jacksons, meanwhile, are trying to save the best horse they've owned in 30 years in the business.

"The chance of running for the Triple Crown in behind us," Roy Jackson said. "We're just glad he is doing well and are looking forward to his recovery."

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