Spirited Barbaro revels in VIP visits

Saturday, May 27th 2006, 6:59 am
By: News On 6

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (AP) _ Barbaro, ever the frisky colt, showed high spirits and a strong appetite Friday when four VIPs came calling on the Kentucky Derby winner.

``He's eating up a storm, and obviously he likes the ladies,'' said University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, who brought carrots for the patient six days after the horse shattered his right hind leg in the Preakness.

Barbaro impressed Gutmann and his doctors with his spirits Friday, although doctors cautioned that the horse still has a long way to go after Sunday's surgery.

To prevent laminitis, a life-threatening infection that can occur when a horse puts too much weight on its uninjured legs, doctors at Penn's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals have fitted Barbaro with a custom-built shoe on his left foot. The shoe extends the length of the left hind foot to match the length of the cast on his right foot.

Gutmann, an experienced horsewoman, joined Barbaro co-owner Gretchen Jackson, veterinary school Dean Joan Hendricks and Corinne Sweeney, the hospital's executive director, at Barbaro's stall.

``He actually likes company,'' Gutmann said. ``He's clearly an athlete. That's apparently made a difference. He's strong. But he's also ... friendly.''

Jackson fears she won't be able to personally thank the fans who have sent the 3-year-old bay colt more than 1,000 well wishes and gifts, from religious statues to large baskets of apples to homemade greeting cards.

Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby by 6 1/2 lengths and was expected to make a Triple Crown bid before a sudden misstep early in the Preakness ended his racing career. Depending on his recovery, he might still have a career as a stud.

``It's a gamut of emotions in a short time,'' said Jackson, who owns the horse with her husband, Roy. ``He looks very healthy and alive and alert. Our biggest concern has just been that he's pain free.''