- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Next up for Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro is a race on the Baltimore dirt instead of the English turf.

A day after his dominating Derby victory, Barbaro was confirmed for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 20.

Barbaro is 3-for-3 on turf and 3-for-3 on dirt in his short career, and there was speculation trainer Michael Matz and owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson were contemplating a run in the prestigious Epsom Derby turf race June 3 in England.

But when Barbaro rolled to a 6-length win in the Derby — the largest winning margin in 60 years — Matz was forced to reconsider and center his thoughts on a run at the sport’s first Triple Crown since 1978.

“He’s a horse with tremendous ability, and he might be better on the turf — that’s a scary thought, isn’t it?” Matz said outside Barbaro’s Churchill Downs barn yesterday morning. “But it would have been foolish not to try him on the dirt as a 3-year-old. It wouldn’t have been fair to the owners. We’ll do the Preakness and then go from there. The future’s in front of him, and there’s no telling how good he can be.”

Barbaro was better than good Saturday, going from fourth place (about four lengths behind) to first place (three lengths ahead) during the race’s fourth quarter-mile. From there, he cruised home with jockey Edgar Prado.

Barbaro will be joined in the 13/16-mile Preakness by as many as four other Derby horses. Brother Derek (tied for fourth), Sweetnorthernsaint (seventh as the post-time favorite) and Lawyer Ron (12th) were confirmed by their trainers yesterday. Jazil (tied for fourth) is possible.

New horses entering the picture include Like Now, who won the Gotham in his last start but missed the Wood Memorial because of a fever; Withers Stakes winner Bernardini; and Simon Pure. The last non-Derby starter to win the Preakness was Red Bullet in 2000.

Dan Hendricks, trainer for Brother Derek, said he canceled a return flight to California and the horse will be transported to Baltimore on May 17. Brother Derek was hurt by a No.18 post position, and he also lost his right front shoe, possibly during the post parade.

“He ran a big race,” Hendricks said. “He never broke a sweat and handled the crowd and the track like a pro. He just couldn’t overcome the adversity that happened.”

Hendricks is optimistic about the Preakness because there will be fewer horses and the race is traditionally more speed-friendly.

“That’s the race I’ve always wanted for this horse,” he said. “I said in December it would be ideal for him to skip the Derby and the big field and go straight to Pimlico. But you can’t do that because it’s the Derby, and I’m glad I didn’t do that because it was great to see him run.”

Meanwhile, Sweetnorthernsaint will return to Laurel Park today. Trainer Michael Trombetta called watching his first Derby horse a “blur.”

“I was trying to find him, and you’re looking all over the place, and then they go behind the tents and you’re looking up at the monitors and then it’s over,” he said. “Everything during the day went great and very much to plan — I just wish we would have run a little better, but we’ll grow from it.

“We have two weeks to get our act together and give it another try, and that’s where we’re headed.”

Barbaro will be transported to Fair Hill Training Facility in Maryland today. He started his career with three turf wins by a combined 191/4 lengths. The lure of the Triple Crown races, though, prompted Matz to try the colt on the dirt. On Feb. 4, he won the Holy Bull Stakes by less than a length. After an eight-week layoff, he won the Florida Derby. A five-week layoff preceded the Kentucky Derby win.

Matz mapped out Barbaro’s pre-Derby schedule with an eye on the Triple Crown campaign. The Preakness is two weeks away, followed by the Belmont three weeks later. That would be three races in five weeks for a horse who has averaged 42.6 days between races.

“We have the big picture in mind,” Matz said. “One race isn’t his whole career. Had he run a bad race, we wouldn’t have said, ‘Now what do we do?’ We’re trying to plan so this horse has a lot of good races in his future because there are other big races coming up.”

If Barbaro can survive the Preakness, he will face a well-rested group of runners in the Belmont, including Sunriver, who didn’t have enough earnings to make the Kentucky Derby, and Bluegrass Cat and Steppenwolfer, the second- and third-place finishers Saturday. Both those colts will not run in the Preakness.

“I’m sure he’ll be a heavy favorite in the Preakness off his race here, and I’d be shocked if he got beat [at Pimlico],” Steppenwolfer trainer Dan Peitz said. “I told [Matz] I’ll see him in the Belmont and try to be the bad guy. I had in my head before this race that we would have to win or run a bang-up second to come back in two weeks. The Belmont seems more of a natural fit for him, and the five weeks will be perfect.”

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