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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Barbaro Wins, Waits

- I think there are two ways to look at Barbaro’s win in the Florida Derby; but in either case, the assumption here is that it wasn’t the greatest field. The race went pretty well as expected - the two graded stakes winners ran one-two, with both answering questions about their ability to handle the route and conditions. The long shots ran like long shots, while Sunriver, who was slightly faster on paper than the others on paper, rallied for third; more on him below.

So you could contend that Barbaro had to work hard to get by a horse stretching out for the first time, and defeated a field of questionable quality. Or you can take the position that Barbaro ran as if he was in need of the race and will benefit from the effort. But even if you go along with the latter, which I’m more than willing to do, isn’t five weeks too long for him to reap those benefits in his next race? He’s certainly going to have to run better to beat the likes of Brother Derek and Lawyer Ron; assuming that Sharp Humor, as impressive as he was, is not the equal of either of those. And I dunno; if he needed this one, isn’t he going to need another one in five weeks? I think I’d be more inclined to bet Barbaro in a Preakness futures pool than one for the Derby; he should be set up perfectly for Pimlico. But this is Michael Matz’ strategy, and who’s to argue with an undefeated record? "The five weeks will be no problem....We should have a fresh horse. Everybody makes a big deal about that, but I don't think it is for this horse." [AP]

Nonetheless, he’s an undefeated colt, and an impressive one. His time of 1:49.01 was a tenth of a second quicker than Bandini, though he certainly was made to expend more effort than Pletcher’s four-year old star in the making, now said to be headed for the Met Mile. Barbaro’s rider Edgar Prado said that he had something left. "I like to see that -- a horse looking around when he makes the lead -- it means he has something left; he wasn't all out to win.” [Washington Post] Prado did a great job from the ten post, hustling him up towards the leader, exactly as Donna Barton and Gary Stevens said he would on the USA coverage of the race. He actually didn’t break that great, but Prado got him up close without really ever being more than three wide on the turn; and he was in the clear, tracking the leader coming out of it. The fractions were about even at 23.45, 23.90, 24.02, and it took them 37.64 seconds to get home; figure Barbaro a bit quicker than that.

- Prado told the Miami Herald that Barbaro is even better on the grass. ''His acceleration is magnificent on the turf.'' The jockey is in an interesting position, as he’ll have the opportunity to check out Keyed Entry when he rides him in the Wood next week; and Strong Contender when he goes in the Blue Grass two weeks hence. I suppose we'll get at least one well-informed opinion on who is the best of the three.

- Pletcher had five winners on the card, along with a second and three thirds. He now has 56 winners, 30 more than second place Bill Mott, and is hitting an even .300. Sunriver was actually quite impressive rallying for third in the Florida Derby – he encountered some early traffic and was four wide throughout the final turn. Pletcher won with a first time starter, Circle the World ($5.40), a son of Fusaichi Pegasus out of Grade 1 (Spinaway) winner Circle of Life. He won another maiden race with a second time starter, Roman Dynasty, with which he hits at 32%. Stretching out to a mile and an eighth from six furlongs? No problem, home by five at 4-5. He’s a son of Theatrical; wait ‘til he gets on the grass.

Exclusive Quality won his third in a row, and his first stakes try, taking the ungraded Spectacular Bid at 4-5 Honey Ryder took the G3 Orchid, running the mile and a half a second faster than Secretariat, and Bandini won at 2-5. I don’t imagine the Pletcher parlay returned too much.

- While the Florida Derby horses recuperated, some of the other top contenders worked. Brother Derek worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 (9/20) for Saturday's Santa Anita Derby. Two of the Wood contenders worked: Bob and John got a bullet (of 15) six furlongs 1:11.20; and Keyed Entry breezed five in 1:01.86 (5/9) at Belmont. Pletcher told "All he needed was a maintenance work after running three weeks ago....Judging from the way he ran in the Gotham and looking at his pedigree, he should be fine at a mile and an eighth."


Anonymous said...

If Barbaro runs good in the Derby but doesn't win it, would Matz decide to target the summer grass races, such as the Arlington Million, and a race at Belmont on the turf in early Oct. as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic?

Why could this be a plan?

Think of the stallion opportunities for a beast that can win on both surfaces. FuPeg went to Coolmore for $60-$70 mil, if Barbaro could ever win the Arlington Mil and the Breeders' Cup Classic, he could command $100 mil.

Anonymous said...

...if you see Barbaro turn up in the Arlington Million (and run well there), then i'd think it's far more likely he's being aimed at the BC Turf, ala Kitten's Joy...hell, a win in the Million might even get Matz thinking about the Arc, although that's getting WAY ahead of ourselves...i think there's far more money to be made in the subsequent 3yo races, such as the Preakness/Belmont/Haskell/Travers, than by challenging older horses in races that he'll still be eligible for next year...i mean, you only get one crack at those 3yo races...and besides, you mentioned perhaps campaigning him with his breeding career in mind, i think the big 3yo races probbaly pull a little more weight with the farms and stud fees, though i could be wrong...

thecalicocat said...

Am I the only one calling for a re-measurement of the Gulfstream turf course? Maybe I am just out of touch with how fast thoroughbreds can run these days. I know the standardbreds are a lot faster today than Bret Hanover ever was.

thecalicocat said...

Hate to say it as a shameless Philly booster, but I have to agree with Alan that Barbaro doesn't look like a Derby winner. Prado gave him the perfect plus ride and he only had to beat one other decent colt. I don't think Barbaro can hope for the same kind of trip in the Derby -- though the Derby is a tough deal for all of the contestants.
Kudos Alan on your pick of West Virginia at a nice price. The horse is better than the basketball team or the state. The state slogan for West Virginia is: "Three million people, eight last names." (apologies to Robert Byrd)