by Trevor Whenham - 05/10/2006
Wow. That's pretty much all you can say about Barbaro's performance in the Kentucky Derby. It was supposed to be the closest Derby in years with all sorts of class so evenly matched that it would be a battle to the finish. Someone forgot to tell our new Kentucky Derby champion that. Barbaro completely dominated and outclassed his rivals, and Edgar Prado didn't even need the whip to help him do it. As soon as Barbaro went to the lead at the top of the stretch you just had to know it was over. Incredibly impressive.
As someone who wants to see a Triple Crown winner more than almost anything else in the world, this is the point each year where I begin to dream of the possibilities. Those possibilities will be racing through my mind for the next two (and hopefully five) weeks, because this horse has at least as good a chance to take home the Crown as any horse since Affirmed last did it in 1978. If he's even half as good in Pimlico as he was on Saturday then the wait for the Belmont will be torture.
Barbaro, of course, won't be the only horse to enter the gate for the Preakness. He'll be joined by several Derby starters looking for another chance to kill the giant, and a number of fresh horses joining the Triple Crown trail a race late. Here's a look at the Preakness field as it starts to shape up:
Derby runners coming back
Barbaro - The champ will return for another go-round. He came out of the race in great shape and has already returned to trainer Michael Matz' home base in Fair Hill, Maryland, about an hour from Pimlico. He will train there and may not even head to Pimlico until race day. The only blemish you can find is the two-week rest. Barbaro has never run back less than five weeks after a win.
Brother Derek - The Santa Anita Derby champ will be back for the Preakness after finishing in a dead heat for fourth at the Derby. He lost a shoe, possibly as early as the post parade. That, and the outside post position, may have been too much to overcome. No matter what, he'll be closer to the rail for the start in the Preakness.
Jazil - The hard closer that also tied for fourth is possible for the Preakness. He'll likely be sent to Pimlico as long as there is enough speed in the race to make a closing style viable. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin won't hesitate to pull the plug and point at the Belmont if he doesn't feel right.
Sweetnorthernsaint - The Derby favorite will be back. The horse made an impressive move from 12th to 3rd, but was too far back to begin with and had nothing left in the tank. He ended up 7th. He did nothing particularly wrong, and came out in fine shape. Trainer Michael Trombetta was happy with the move and is eager to take another shot at Barbaro.
Lawyer Ron - The 12th place showing wasn't what anyone was hoping for, but the horse came out fine and is likely headed to the Preakness, setting up a rematch of the four top Derby contenders in Pimlico.
Derby runners possible, but unlikely
The Baffert Batallion - Bob Baffert did not have a good day at the Derby. None of his runners ran their race, and a 9th, 16th and 17th place finish are all he has to show for his efforts. Sinister Minister came back with a quarter crack, and the other two were fine. He says he doesn't want to run in the Preakness unless he feels he has a chance to win it. Since he has compared Barbaro to John Henry, it seems unlikely we will see him in Baltimore.
Bluegrass Cat - Todd Pletcher said that the second place horse came out fine, but that he likely won't head to the Preakness. He said he wants to evaluate the Preakness before making a final decision, which seems to me to be another way of saying he has no intention of entering the horse.
Steppenwolfer - Trainer Dan Peitz seems to be borrowing a page from Michael Matz' playbook. A five-week break was seemingly the perfect recipe for Barbaro, so Peitz is giving Steppenwolfer a five-week break before tackling the Belmont.
Like Now - Kiaran McLaughlin may not want to run Jazil, but he has committed to run Like Now. The horse won the Gotham Stakes and was second in the Coolmore Lexington. Considering McLaughlin has already said he is not eager about having Like Now face Barbaro, you might want to look elsewhere for your win bets.
Simon Pure - D. Wayne Lukas could be back where he belongs - at the Triple Crown. Simon Pure was fourth in the Arkansas Derby last time out, but the last time Lukas came to the big show with a lightly regarded horse owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis it was named Charismatic. That went pretty well for Lukas, so dreamers will have reason to dream.
Bernardini - Sheik Mohammad al Maktoum rules Dubai and has more money than most small countries, but he hasn't had much luck with the Triple Crown. He'll be trying to change that with Bernardini, the horse that won the Withers Stakes in his last race. Trainer Tom Albertrani ran Deputy Glitters in the Derby, and will change horses to try to change his luck.