Defying All Odds, Barbaro Is on the Mend

With each hesitant step, Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner who fractured his leg in the Preakness, is defying the odds.

In video released today, the bandages on his broken right hind leg were gone and he even appeared to be smiling for the camera.

The now-famous horse has a noticeable "hitch in his giddyap," but appears well on his way to recovery -- a recovery that many, including his own dedicated team of doctors, knew was a long shot.

"He was a great patient, not just a good patient," said surgeon Dean Richardson of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. "I'd say [he] was a great patient."

Though Barbaro's health is still at risk and he's still showing signs of his near-fatal injury, doctors say the famous racehorse may soon be leaving intensive care.

"There's a possibility we'd try to get him out of the hospital where he'd be able to be walked on softer footing, because at this point his medical care is relatively modest," Richardson said.

It's been a harrowing seven months. He had shown true greatness at the Kentucky Derby, only to have that promise shattered in the Preakness.

Barbaro's delicate surgery involved 27 screws and a stainless-steel plate followed by hydrotherapy to reduce pressure on his legs.

His recovery was right on track until the extra weight on his healthy left leg caused a severe hoof disease called laminitis.

Laminitis isn't just painful, it's often a death sentence for horses. It killed the legendary Secretariat.

At the time, even Richardson got choked up delivering news of the setback.

"The prognosis -- I'd be lying if I said anything other than poor," he said at the time.

"When I said his prognosis was poor at that point, I was very devastated. I really didn't think that we were going to pull through to this point," Richardson said later.

However, fans never lost hope, sending tens of thousands of get-well cards and even Christmas ornaments, proving that America loves rooting for an underdog.

"The story has become one not of athletic greatness, but one of the greatness of character," said Laura Hillenbrand, author of "Seabiscuit."

"This is … a horse who doesn't know the meaning of the word 'quit,'" Hillenbrand said.

Doctors say they took their cues from a horse whose spirit never waned. Now, they say retirement for their prized patient may someday involve life on a stud farm.

"He's a pretty adaptable guy. He likes to meet other animals, he really does," Richardson said. "What we'd like to have him meet, eventually, would be receptive mares. That's what we'd like him to meet."