Doctors 'Optimistic' About Happy Life for Barbaro

Doctors expressed optimism that Barbaro, who became the toast of the horse racing community with his stunning victory last year in the Kentucky Derby, will heal well enough from the potentially fatal injury he suffered in the Preakness Stakes to lead a comfortable life.

Dr. Dean W. Richardson, the chief of surgery at the intensive care unit of the George D. Widener Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania New Bolton Center, where Barbaro is being treated, made the announcement today in a statement posted on the hospital's Web site.

Barbaro, who shattered three bones in his right hind leg a few yards into the Preakness on May 20, has made enough progress that doctors now believe it will be possible for him to "live happily," the statement said.

"The right hind has healed well enough that we are optimistic about that possibility," Richardson said.

He did, however, express concern about Barbaro's left hind foot, saying that it "remains a more formidable long-term challenge. The foot must grow much more for him to have a truly successful outcome."

Richardson said that though Barbaro now has an abnormal gait, he is making progress on his right foot with the fusions of two major joints in his lower limb and is getting accustomed to a special shoe.

With all he's gone through, Barbaro still "has a bright eye and happy demeanor," Richardson said in the statement.

At the time of the injury, the prospects for Barbaro's survival were bleak -- no horse had ever been known to survive such a serious break. But Barbaro delighted fans by making remarkable progress.

The next update on Barbaro's health is expected on Jan. 16, unless there is any major change in his condition.