Barbaro makes progress for horse fans


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Barbaro's injury at the Preakness has cast a shadow over this Saturday's $1-million race. However, the good news is that Barbaro continues to recover from his broken leg and the surgery that followed. Anyone who remembers how Go For Wand had to be destroyed after shattering her ankle at the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff (a heartbreaking event that also took place live on NBC) can imagine the emotional investment the public has put in Barbaro's recovery.

Dr. Dean Richardson, the equine surgeon from University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center where Barbaro remains in intensive care, said Friday that he is pleased with the horse's progress. Richardson handled the six-hour operation to repair Barbaro's three leg fractures and dislocated fetlock joint the day after the Preakness.

Provided Barbaro doesn't suffer any complications, hospital officials say the son of Dynaformer should be able to walk without much extra support for his affected right hind leg. A lucrative future at stud awaits. Considering Barbaro was undefeated in six career races - including this year's Kentucky Derby - before the accident, the line of potential dams should be longer than any sire has ever seen.

Barbaro's injury has also been a blessing in disguise for the New Bolton Center itself, as well as the center's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, where Barbaro is recuperating. The center was able to establish a "Barbaro Fund" to help with the treatment of large animals, thanks to a generous gift from an anonymous donor. The gift was among the thousands of get-well tributes that have poured into the hospital.

The injury has also put the spotlight squarely on horse safety. The Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., where Barbaro trained this spring, is going to make the switch to an all-weather surface called "Tapeta" this summer. This follows the growing use of the "Polytrack" synthetic surface, which is going to be installed for the main tracks at both Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., and at Woodbine in Toronto. The new horse racing surfaces are already dramatically reducing the number of fatalities.

"This sport needs to catch a break," trainer Nick Zito told ESPN after the Preakness. "Look, you don't want to see every track go to Polytrack. I can't see the Kentucky Derby run on Polytrack, can you? But you want to keep the animals safe."

A clean run at the Belmont will also give the public something to cheer about. Preakness winner Bernardini will be among the favorites, along with the likes of Sunriver, Jazil and Point Determined. ABC has the Belmont starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

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