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Barbaro Recovering, but Doctors Are Still Wary

Amid the public outpouring of sympathy for Barbaro and his owners' hopes that "someday all of you will be able to see little Barbaros running around the track," there remains an underlying question:

Would all this money and time be spent on a horse's recovery if he were not the Kemtucky Derby winner and expected to gain millions in stud fees?

"If this horse were a gelding these owners would have definitely done everything to save this horse's life," said Dr. Dean Richardson, who pinned together the leg bones the 3-year-old shattered in the Preakness.

"If this horse could have absolutely no reproductive value, they would have saved this horse's life."

Even if Barbaro becomes a stallion, there still would be questions concerning his ability to cover mares because of the catastrophic injury to his hind leg.

"But that's a long way from now," Richardson said. "If he's doing well, it's conceivable he could possibly be breeding mares next year, but that's way ahead of it. He's just a few days into post op."

Even so, there was more good news Tuesday from the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, where Barbaro was transported Saturday night directly from Pimlico Race Course.

"He's actually better today than he was even yesterday and he was pretty good yesterday," Richardson said, noting the colt was able to balance himself enough to scratch his left ear with his left hind leg. "He's walking very well on the limb, absolutely normal vital signs. He's doing very well."

Nothing could make owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson happier. The couple live about 10 miles away from the center, in West Grove, Pa., and Gretchen Jackson is on the board of overseers at the hospital.

"My only hope for him is that he lives a painless life," she said at a news conference. "Whether that means he'll be a stallion and we're lucky enough to see little Barbaros, that would be a supreme hope for him."

"We've run the gamut of emotions from the euphoria of the Kentucky Derby to the devastation of the Preakness," her husband, Roy, said. "The sad part is that in Barbaro's case, the American public won't get a chance to see him continue his racing career.

"Even though he ran so well in the Kentucky Derby, we probably didn't see his greatest race. But that's water over the dam. We're just glad we jumped a hurdle here so far," he said.

Though it will be months before the leg heals, the optimistic reports turned the topic to Barbaro's prospect as a stallion, which could mean tens of millions of dollars.

The Jacksons turned down stallion-rights offers for Barbaro before the Derby. Smarty Jones, who won the 2004 Derby and Preakness, was syndicated for $40 million, his only loss coming in the Belmont Stakes in his attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. A win the Preakness would have improved Barbaro's record to 7-for-7 heading into the Belmont.

And it's anybody's guess how much Barbaro would fetch had he won the Triple Crown.

All that mattered little to the well-to-do Jacksons, who have spared no expense to save their beloved horse. Richardson put the costs of Barbaro's surgery and recovery time at "tens of thousands of dollars - many tens of thousands of dollars."

"I know these people, and they love this horse," Dan Rosenberg, president of Three Chimneys in Midway, Ky., where Smarty Jones stands for a stud fee of $100,000, said. "Yes, this is a business. But at the same time if you don't care about them, then you can't do this."

Rosenberg also said it was premature to put a price tag on Barbaro's value as a stallion.

The Jackson have been in the racing business for 30 years, and Barbaro is by far the best horse they've ever owned.

"When one becomes a racehorse owner, one of the things is to not fall in love with the animal because it is so painful when something like this happens," Gretchen Jackson said. "Yes, we've experienced this before ... it's part of life."

Roy Jackson said Barbaro was insured, and the premiums grew after the colt won the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby. They could have made the decision not to go through the expense of trying to save Barbaro, and likely would have collected on their policy.

"If they went to the insurance company and said they made a decision to destroy the horse, there would be no questions," Rosenberg said. "But they didn't."

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 long pastern bone was shattered in "20-plus pieces."