Barbaro Updates: 110 – 139

Barbaro, with Messaging, at Fair Hill Training Center

Update 139: A couple of articles recently have questioned the public’s ongoing concern for Barbaro and whether he is really missed and the merits of following a horse who no longer races. The first: Maybe Barbaro won’t be missed after all seems to have incensed many with the following ending quote:

This victory by Showing Up has the potential to reinvigorate interest among even the casual racing fan. Showing Up may not run in the traditional summer events for three-year-olds, but it will be interesting to follow him in his future endeavors.

Let’s hope that thoroughbred racing does not drop the ball in promoting this potentially new star. It will be great to write about an active horse and his accomplishments, instead of medical updates on a retired thoroughbred.

I guess insensitive would be an understatement here. All that aside, while Barbaro has clearly run the most impressive performance so far this year (I think even Don Agriss would agree to that); and Showing Up has the same owners as “Bobby” (so we were rooting for him); one cannot forget Bernadini when considering other performances by top three year olds. I also think main stream media (like Agriss) has dropped the ball by not realizing that Barbaro has the potential to engage even the most casual racing fan as he progresses through his recovery.

The second article Barbaro Trots Back Into Obscurity appears similarly insensitive and clueless.

These are countered by this piece from the Daily Racing Form: If Eclipse Awards came out now . . . which includes the following excerpt:

And who is my 2006 Horse of the First Half of the Year? Barbaro, purely because of the way he captured the public’s imagination in the days between the Derby and his ill-fated Preakness.

On another note, Tim received an e-mail from Mike Rea’s sister when she saw our initial link to Mike’s site here. It included the following:

I love what you had to share about him and his conversation with Matz. It sounds just like my little brother! I recall his reaction to Barbaro’s injury clearly – he cried as if he had just lost his best friend. His family and friends were all very aware of his pride in a horse from Fair Hill with Barbaro’s accomplishments. In fact, one of the happiest days of his career was when he began training there.

Good luck Mike in your long road to recovery. We are all rooting for you.

Update 138: Another good night for Barbaro. Just spoke to Michael Matz who had heard from Dean Richardson. Dr. Richardson also noted that they have a patient with more ‘hardware’ than “Bobby”, a Thompson’s Gazelle.
update tuesday, 9:30 AM

Update 137: Barbaro continues to do well. I just spoke to Peter Brette. He mentioned they may change his cast again later this week. Peter is planning to visit tomorrow, and I think Kim (his wife) may also join him. Kim also posted a comment, which includes the following excerpt:

Just to let you know Barbaro is doing well, a little bored as to be expected, Peter hasn’t been able to see him as much as he would like but we are going to try go see him tomorrow.

There is something I have been thinking of ever since this whole thing happened and was wondering what everyone else thought.

This is of course my “Kim Brette “,s personal thoughts which have not been discussed with the Jacksons, New Bolten etc etc but I have a very strong belief that Barbaro should have a fund of his own to help retired, injured, maybe even re schooled racehorses for the rest of the time they are here.

I think this sentiment is shared by many who frequent this site. (Her comment is posted under the “Your overwhelming Response” post).

I also wanted to update you briefly on Mike Rea (freak training accident June 16). His latest blog entry shows that Sunday was a good day for Mike. I spoke to one of his sister’s today who noted that today was also a good day. I volunteered to help a little with their web site (I was sooooo impressed they started a blog I could not help but ‘get in the way’). Anyway, I am glad Mike seems to be progressing in the right direction!

Update 136: A nice article from the Baltimore Sun: New Bolton director cautions against Barbaro complacency (thanks Lynnette) reiterates some of the issues we noted in update 134, and makes it clear that we do still have a long way to go. The following is an excerpt:

Sweeney said that while the prospect of infection drops dramatically the further down the road Barbaro gets, laminitis, an infection that can occur in Barbaro’s left foot due to overuse, “is always a concern.”

Though it, too, lessens every day, it doesn’t totally go away until Barbaro is back, solidly on all fours.

“His whole good health and the way he’s bearing his weight is encouraging,” she said. “But hearing good news about him every day can give the impression that nothing more can go wrong, and that’s not the case.”

Update 135: Just spoke to Michael Matz. I asked him “Everything good [with Barbaro] Michael”, his reply: “So far”. Thus our update for this morning, Barbaro continues to do well. It has been five weeks since the surgery, very cool, but clearly we have a long way to go yet. The key issues are described below (update 134).
updated 10:50 am, monday

Update 134: I have not yet had a chance to catch up with Michael Matz’s barn yet this morning (but will return to Fair Hill once ‘training’ is over to get an update). The weather this morning was very wet, thus many barns stayed dry by not going out to the racetracks. I did get a chance to talk to ‘Chuck’, a Fair Hill vet and associate of Kathy Anderson’s. (Chuck actually was the vet kind enough to call me as soon as Barbaro was out of surgery (Update 5) so I could post that update ASAP.) He confirmed the two key things at this stage are the need for the bones to heal and take over the work currently being done by the ‘hardware’; and the potential for Laminitis. I imagine the former is the bigger concern (the cast replacement process indicated this was progressing in the right direction); the potential for the latter would increase if Barbaro is not comfortable putting weight on his injured leg (so far this does not seem to be the case); and if Barbaro was not comfortable getting up and down. Chuck mentioned the best thing for Barbaro is the ability to lie down and sleep for a couple of hours. The process of getting up, however, puts the most pressure (torque was mentioned) on the injured leg. Chuck explained to me the cause of Laminitis, but it was a little technical for me, so I have linked to the wikipedia entry.

Update 133: Michael Matz showed up at the local bar halfway through the England game to buy his lunch to go. (I am not sure he was expecting half of Fair Hill to be at the bar watching the world cup.) Anyway, he said things remain the same for Barbaro as of this morning, so that is good news! Of course England winning is good news too, although Michael did leave before Beckham scored the only goal (and what a goal it was)!

Update 132: I spoke to Michael Matz this morning, and no updates yet from New Bolton (sometimes the call comes in later than other times). He did mention he visited yesterday afternoon and all was well, so saturday afternoon is our latest update. I will try to get more information later, but it may be a tough day for updates (England are playing etc!)

A nice win for Showing Up, the Jackson’s and Barclay Tagg. Although I missed the race, I am told he was impressive. Also noteworthy is Film Maker’s nice return to the races, winning a grade 3. When the time was right I did want to mention how well Better Talk Now ran in the race before the Preakness, I guess now is as good a time as any!. Both these horses (Better Talk Now and Film Maker) are trained by Graham Motion, who is another fantastic trainer at Fair Hill. I don’t know how old each horse is but they seem to have been running at a very high level for a long time!

On a more sombre note, when I was in San Francisco last weekend, Fair Hill was reminded what a dangerous sport we participate. All things can be going so well one minute, and then distaster strikes (well Barbaro does remind us of that everyday for sure). Anyway, trainer Mike Rea was involved in a horrific accident, and is currently in the ICU in Baltimore. His family have created a blog: Mike Rea’s Recovery Info & Updates. Mike was actually the “exercise rider” (he is actually a trainer) cited in the article we posted a while back: Matz: ‘I’m just sad for racing’:

Matz said that an exercise rider who works for another trainer at Fair Hill rode past Matz on the track the other morning and offered encouragement.

“I think he’s a born-again Christian,” Matz said. “He was shook up. He said, ‘The Lord doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.’ Then he rode away a couple of strides, stopped, looked back and said, ‘He must think you’re an awfully tough guy.’ ”

Matz chuckled, probably for the first time in a week.

I asked Mike Rea about the quote shortly after the article appeared, and while he confessed to the quote, he hoped it was the journalist, and not Michael (Matz), who confused him for an exercise rider and not a trainer!

Update 131: A couple of nice articles from the comments. We should start by wishing the Jackson’s good luck: Showing Up Center Stage at Colonial (thanks Lisa). The article further highlights the Jackson’s, Babaro’s prognosis and a quote from Barclay Tagg. The following are excerpts:

The feeling is mutual. Tagg trains about 20 horses for the Jacksons and was impressed with the way they coped with Barbaro’s breakdown.

“I was there when he got hurt, and I was there when they loaded him on the ambulance,” said Tagg, who also trained 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. “I talked to the Jacksons, and they were very upset and very nice. They’re understanding people, and they know what kind of game they’re in. We all fall in love with the horses, I don’t care what anybody says. If you didn’t, you’d be crazy to be in the game seven days a week.”


At the New Bolton Center intensive care unit, reports on Barbaro’s progress are uniformly positive, but no one should assume he is out of danger, said Corinne Sweeney, the hospital’s executive director.

“I think it continues to concern us that the public might not be aware that he still has a way to go,” she said. “Dr. [Dean] Richardson and the whole team are extremely pleased with his progress, but they are also realists and he has weeks ahead that contain potential complications. It’s a fine line. It’s realism, not pessimism. If you’re in the field of medicine or veterinary medicine, it’s the animal body and there are many elements to healing. It’s not like changing a spark plug.”

Lets hope Showing Up can prevail at Colonial Downs for the Jacksons, it would be a nice distraction. Showing Up was actually trained at fair Hill last summer / fall before Barclay’s horses left for the winter.

The second article: Barbaro wearing new cast well; remains ‘grand patient’ (thanks Daphne) highlights some of Barbaro’s new skills:

“To amuse him, besides feeding him some snacks, some of the nurses on the ward line peppermints up on the edge [of his stall], and he’s gotten very clever at being able to get to each one between the bars before they fall off the edge,” Sweeney said. “Any patient that is there for an extended period of time, all of the staff here forms a good relationship with. He’s now been a resident of the hospital for almost five weeks, and he certainly has endeared himself.”

Update 130: Barbaro continues to do well. Just spoke to Peter Brette this morning (saturday morning). He may visit later today, in his words: “If I can get finished here in time” (I spoke to him as he was working in the barn). Peter was actually holding court to some visitors visiting Fair Hill and Michael Matz’s barn this morning, answering many questions (well I just arrived as it was finishing). It is nice to see people visiting Fair Hill during training hours, even on a gloomy morning as we experienced today. I would have got this update completed earlier but it was a busy morning’s work (rode nine horses).
update: saturday, June 24, 10:50 AM

Update 129: A few nice articles have been posted in the comments. Broken-down and busted but with something left in the tank is further illustration of the ‘reach’ of Barbaro, this article coming from Australia. The following excerpt signals this:

Prof gives Barbaro a “good chance” of recovery. “It’s always hard,” he went on, “because it was a monumental traumatic injury. They have put a bucketload of hardware in. That’s not always the complete answer, but I’m sure it’s been done by capable people. The longer he goes the better chance he has.”

Not sure how many vets in the states would use the term ‘bucketload’ to describe the amount of hardware involved.

As many already know, Barbaro is joining the Breyer line of model horses: Barbaro becomes a model. What is perhaps less known is this is not the first of Michael Matz’s horses to join the Breyer family:

Barbaro’s trainer, Michael Matz, also has a prior connection to Breyer, which made a model of his Olympic show jumper Jet Run in the 1980s.

Ten dollars from each sale will be donated to the Barbaro Fund.

Finally, a nice article on the New Bolton Center itself: Now known for Barbaro, Pa. vet hospital has other patients, tasks which describes the work NBC does for many types of patients:

Some are more cooperative than others. On one recent day, it took at least three veterinarians to coax a bull back into the barn after it had undergone a castration operation.

And then there was the curtain-chewing colt, a patient in Widener’s neonatal intensive care unit. The horse’s feistiness seemed to please veterinarian Jon Palmer, who had recently performed surgery to correct an intestinal problem.

Earlier that day, Palmer finished treating an alpaca with a newborn that did not know how to nurse. He also was monitoring one mare’s high-risk pregnancy while keeping an eye on another who had just given birth.

Palmer sees about 180 animals a year in the neonatal ICU, including goats, pigs, sheep and cattle, with the occasional deer, camel, zebra and antelope.

Update 128: Another good night for Barbaro last night (thursday night). I spoke to Peter Brette this morning who let me know. I also asked Peter whether there was padding in his stall (this question has come up in the comments) to protect Barbaro from doing further damage from kicking the stall walls etc. The answer is no. Peter had previously asked Dr. Richardson about this (clearly it would seem to make sense to have padding) but apparently the padding is much harder to keep clean and thus could raise the likelihood of infection etc (its nice to know the reason). Peter said it can be frightening to watch Barbaro get up and down!
update friday, June 23, 7:50 AM

Update 127: Another good day for Barbaro (thursday). Just spoke to Peter Brette who provided the news. Keep the good thoughts coming, its a long road ahead.

Update 126: As we noted in update in update 117, the Jackson’s are pleased that Barbaro has highlighted issues close to horsemen’s needs. One such issue cited is the horse-slaughter bill. According to recent comments this bill is coming up for vote sometime in the next several days. You can access: Home Stretch for Horses to learn more about what you can do.

Update 125: A very nice article on our Fair Hill vet (and sometimes contributor to this site) Kathy Anderson:
Barbaro her best bet: U of S grad shares close relationship with Derby winner
(thanks Lynette). I mentioned to Kathy this morning this article had been published, it was from a phone interview yesterday (it is amazing how news and the internet work). The article includes the following excerpt:

Anderson will never forget watching Barbaro’s life change on that Saturday afternoon which, she says, “vacillated between blustery threats of rain and tranquil sunshine.” Anderson and a crowd of more than 200 settled in to watch the Preakness on television from Barbaro’s home base at Fair Hill.

Their hero was hobbling less than one-eighth of a mile into the race.

“Shock became horror as we realized the seriousness of Barbaro’s gait,” Anderson wrote in her journal. “The race was run but we did not see it, for our hearts were crying out for Barbaro to stay upright and be able to leave the race course in one piece.” Soon after, Anderson’s cellphone began ringing . . . Dr. Dean Richardson called from Florida . . . Dr. Scott Palmer phoned from the Preakness track in Baltimore . . . and trainer Michael Matz called for Palmer’s number.

Much of the above is from an e-mail Kathy sent to her friends sunday night, which she kindly let us reproduce as update 14. It remains my favourite article on this horrific incident, although I am not yet prepared to reread it! As one of the 200 or so present at the party I can recall vividly the moment of the tragedy, Kathy was positioned just to the right of the TV, her head dropped to her hands. I left the room (I don’t think or certainly recall watching the finish of the race) and remained outside for the next hour or so, talking to others who were in shock. Kathy walked by, I asked her if she knew the current status of Barbaro (I think she knew that we were covering Barbaro’s Preakness preparations on this site). I was amazed at her openness to share exactly what she knew at the time, based on the phone calls she had received / made.

We still have a long way to go, lets hope the news continues to remain very positive!

Update 124: Barbaro had another good night last night (wednesday night). Just spoke to Michael Matz who had the phone call from Dean Richardson.

I am sitting here with Fair Hill regular Kathee Rengert, who was cited in the article from the Baltimore Sun yesterday which we included in update 120. Kathee (in conjunction with Walnut Green) was the bloodstock agent for the purchase of La Ville Rouge (Barbaro’s mum).

I asked Kathee to tell me a little bit about the Jackson’s, friends of hers.

Kathy: “They are very compassionate people, and Gretchen noted the fact the situation with Barbaro has elevated her awareness of the unique nature of each individual horse. She herself said that her awareness of the horses other than Barbaro has been elevated, as to their unique personalities and varying needs. She is heavily involved in the care and awareness of retired racehorses.”

“Gretchen was asked by the reporter of the Baltmore Sun what the plans were three months out for Barbaro, but she defered and considered this a day to day situation.”

Kathy also went on to note: “The horse looks fabulous, I was amazed at how well he looked when I visited.”
update 7:45 am, Clockers Stand, Fair Hill

Update 123: Just spoke to Peter Brette who visited Barbaro today (Wednesday afternoon)…he remains in great condition. So it looks like another good day for Bobby.

Update 122: For a little light relief I wanted to do some exploring on google to see how popular Barbaro has been in the last month or so. I compared Barbaro with “Paris Hilton” and it is good to see that for six days at least, Barbaro was a more popular search query! Unfortunately for June this is not the case (despite the continued press references). There does not seem to be a scale that lets you know the volume of queries. We did run a google adwords campaign to alert people of this site beginning the sunday after the Preakness. We received 3k visits in one hour, much of the traffic coming from google (when Bobby came out of surgery). The site crashed and Eliza has been adding bandwidth ever since.

Update 121: Confirmation that Barbaro is feeling comfortable in his new cast from New Bolton Center’s press release today: Barbaro adjusting nicely to new cast. It includes:

One month after his life-threatening injury at the Preakness, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro is adjusting well to his new fiberglass cast and life in the Intensive Care Unit of the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals. “He’s a lively, bright, happy horse,” said Chief of Surgery Dean W. Richardson, who replaced the cast on Barbaro’s hind leg on June 13. “He’s enjoying carrots and other treats, and is friendly and frisky. I’m very pleased with the progress he’s made in the last month.”

Update 120: Another good night for Barbaro last night (tuesday night). Michael Matz informed me this morning on the track. A nice article from the Baltimore Sun: Barbaro making healthy steps (thanks Lisa) which also highlights the progress Barbaro is making at this stage of the recovery. It includes the following excerpt:

Just before Jackson left Barbaro yesterday, the exit door beside Barbaro’s stall was opened for another horse, and Barbaro was obviously ready to go, too. He came to attention and moved swiftly toward the outdoor light.

When freedom didn’t come, he let his irritation be known, bucking and slamming his good hooves and his bad one on his stall floor. Jackson says she was glad to be there to calm him, and talked soothingly to her horse.

He is clearly feeling well enough to want to get out!
update, thursday June 21, 8:50 AM

Update 119: Another good day (tuesday) for ‘Bobby’. Just spoke with Peter Brette and they continue to be very happy with his progress.

Update 118: If you ever wonder the reach of concern Barbaro has generated just consider his updates are appearing in New Zealand media: Barbaro’s odds improving every day. This piece also includes a great picture of his new cast.

Update 117: Another good night for Barbaro last night (monday night). Spoke to Michael Matz this morning who had heard from Dr. Richardson. Peter (Brette) also mentioned that Edgar Prado and his family visited Barbaro yesterday. On another note, Miraculous Miss (Acorn filly for Steve Klesaris) is also doing well.

And finally, this article from Daily Local News (Philly): For the love of Barbaro (thanks Lisa) demonstrates the impact Barbaro is having:

New Bolton recently was presented a check for $13.5 million from Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. The state funds are earmarked for new medical facilities at the center, including a new isolation/gastrointestinal facility and a chemical digestion building. Donations to the BarbaroFoundation now total $560,000.

The Jacksons are pleased Barbaro’s story has spurred a closer look at the horse-slaughter bill in Congress and better housing for workers on the backstretch, a debate on increasing the time between Triple Crown races and installing safer, synthetic racing surfaces.

update tuesday June 20, 8:20 am

Update 116: Looks like another good day for Barbaro (monday). His visitors today included Michael Matz (who I think visits most days, either coming to or from work, given how close to New Bolton Center Michael lives) and Kathy Anderson. Peter Brette called me to let me know everything looks good for the day (he spoke to Michael).

Update 115: We have added a new movie to the Fan multimedia page. Thanks Karen! Penn has added some new Barbaro pictures from June 16, thanks Superfecta.

Update 114: I asked Kathy Anderson (Barbaro’s Fair Hill vet) about the ‘hardware’ and what happens in the long run. She said it would most likely remain with Bobby, but would essentially no longer be serving any function. It is all necessary until the bones reknit together etc. Of course I did not really know that it was the bones that were going to take back over. That is good to know, having ridden many horses with some kind of ‘hardware’ added.

Update 113: Another good night for Barbaro last night (sunday night). I caught up with Michael Matz and Peter Brette on the way to the track this morning. We are now four weeks post surgery!.
update 9:20 am, monday morning

Update 112: Excellent article from Sports Illustrated: ‘Everything right so far’
Doctors are thrilled with Barbaro’s steady progress
which notes many aspects of Barbaro’s recover and prognosis (thanks Lisa). Here is an excerpt:

Today, Richardson is guardedly optimistic. He says the odds are “going up,” and adds: “Until he actually walks out of the hospital with no cast on, the radiographs look normal and he’s bearing full weight, it won’t even jump to 75 percent.

“If and when that happens, it will probably creep up … and when I decide it’s time to leave the hospital, maybe I’ll finally admit that something worked,” he said.

The next major concern is the healing process: Will the bones heal before the hardware begins to loosen?

“He’s a large active horse and the metal really isn’t meant to bear the weight for a very long period of time,” Richardson said. “There’s always this race between healing the fracture and continued structural support from the implant. If they start to fail, that could be a problem, so that is a continued concern.”

New York Times is carrying the same article (thanks Lynda) as is the Bloodhorse.

Update 111: Peter Brette visited Barbaro this morning (Sunday morning). As previously, he’s looking very good. Dr. Richardson was there. They walked him around and he continues to progress very well.
Updated Sunday 11:40am.

Update 110: A nice piece of humour as Barbaro responds to his mailbag: Barbaro Responds to Fans (thanks Ernie) Here is an excerpt from one of Barbaro’s letters as he discusses his retirement plans:

But don’t expect Barbaro to disappear into the sunset! I can command a pretty hefty speaker’s fee. I’m actually already in discussions to host a Dr. Phil-style talk show, and I’ve been invited to speak at the Women’s Health Forum at the Chicago Convention Center later this summer. But as for everything else, your guess is as good as mine.

It seems the original updates page is suffering from size issues (or something more technical). Further updates will be posted to this new page. Any comments, thoughts are very welcome as usual. Thanks toMSNs cache for being most current with data to enable me to recover all the “missing” updates!