A day after calling Barbaro's chances of survival "a longshot," Dr. Dean Richardson said Barbaro was "acceptably comfortable" and responding well to treatment.
"He's doing much better," Richardson, chief of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center, told reporters outside the veterinary hospital in Kennett Square, Pa., where Barbaro has been since injuring his right hind leg May 20 during the Preakness Stakes.
Prado left New York at 4:30 a.m. Friday to visit Barbaro before riding at Belmont Park.
"He looked much better than I thought he would," Prado said after returning to the racetrack. "He is very smart, and he knew me right away. I fed him, walked with him and he put his head on my shoulder and fell asleep.
"It's a very bad situation. But he has the will to overcome this."
Barbaro's condition took a dire turn in recent days when he developed a severe complication called laminitis in his previously sound left hind foot, leading doctors to remove a large portion of his hoof.
Doctors have tried to diminish Barbaro's discomfort by placing him in a sling at times, but the horse did not need it as much Thursday, Richardson said in a statement released by the hospital.
"Barbaro was out of his sling for more than 12 hours yesterday, and he had a calm, restful night, sleeping on his side for more than four hours," he said.
Richardson warned earlier that Barbaro's condition could deteriorate quickly, leading to a decision to euthanize the horse in as little as 24 hours if he were judged to be in too much pain.
"However, it's important to remember that Barbaro's treatment could easily continue for several weeks, and if all goes well, even months," he said Friday.
"Our goal is to keep him as comfortable as possible, and clearly that comfort level will be a major indicator for our treatment decisions."