I didn’t end up using Barbaro much at all; had him in the third spot in my triples, and don’t even remember now if he was on the end of my Pick 3’s that got busted up immediately when Behaving Badly couldn’t stave off her stablemate Pussycat Doll in the Humana. (The Pick 3 payoff of $266.80 had to be a disappointment to the winners. Pussycat Doll was the third choice, English Channel, the only thing I had right on the day, was 7-2; a straight parlay would have returned $319.50 for a $2 investment.) Barbaro seemed to gain more backers as the week went on, including, happily, readers Thecalicocat and Nick; and he completed the Oaks-Derby double for Byanose.
In trying to find a horse ready to improve on the first Saturday in May, I overlooked Barbaro. I grew more afraid of him as the week went on, especially after seeing what he looked like on the track; but I never came around. I have to admit that the five weeks played a factor in my thinking; not that I thought the mere fact of the layoff would preclude a horse from winning, but rather because I didn’t think he would move forward as he did. Thus, I figured he was good for a piece of the purse, but not as a win bet. (I did almost anticipate correctly that he’d be the favorite.)
Looking back at the race again, it was almost never in doubt. Barbaro's favorable post position and his tactical speed allowed him to get a virtually perfect trip, other than his brief stumble coming out of the gate. (Perhaps he was as surprised as I was at the lightning-quick start, occurring almost immediately after Flashy Bull completed the loading.) I mean, how perfect a set-up could you ask for, racing in the clear, right behind Keyed Entry and Sinister Minister? Well maybe that of his stablemate Showing Up, who saved ground just inside the winner. But Edgar Prado couldn’t have dreamed of a better scenario.
"Every step of the way he was running so easily," Prado said. "I wasn't even concerned about the horses in front. … I looked back a couple of times and didn't see anybody. It was just a matter of time when I can turn him loose, and you see what happened when I did." [Courier-Journal]But this was not just a case of a horse winning because he had a good trip. This was an awesome performance, both historically – his winning margin was the most since Assault in 1946, and his final time of 2:01.36 the 14th fastest ever – and visually. For one thing, he had the speed and athleticism to recover from the poor start, and to be able to track a pace that may not have been as intense as we expected, but was still lively at 46 seconds. It was quick enough to allow the two plodders Steppenwolfer and Jazil to get up for minor shares. Barbaro was able to stay close, and not only have enough for the stretch, but talk about a horse ‘visibly quickening!' Check out the final fractions. After the three-quarters in 1:10.88, the next quarter went in 26.14 seconds. But then, Barbaro blazed through the stretch in a final quarter of 24.34 seconds. And that was under a hand ride. You don’t often see that in American horse racing, at least not on the dirt. Turf is supposed to be Barbaro’s preferred surface. That's a scary thought.
- It wasn’t quite a Mrs. Genter moment, but the shot of the “plane crash kids” screaming for Barbaro as if he were their own, was the kind of scene that ably displays the infatuation and passion that horses racing around a track inspires in human beings. However, you’d think that NBC would be more careful in this “wardrobe malfunction era” to make sure that there’s not some guy in the shot screaming “Holy shit!”
Another dramatic TV scene was the shot of the Brother Derek group right after the race. It looked like one of those ads for the Sopranos. The only guy forcing a smile was Hendricks, and watching the race again, you can see why. Brother Derek was extremely wide, and actually acquitted himself well closing for a share of 4th, I thought, after being taken completely out of his game. "Down the backside, he got into a lot of dirt and you could see him jumping around, kind of looking for a clear spot," Hendricks told the AP.