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May 19, 2006

New blood for Barbaro to conquer

By: By Don Agriss - Horse Racing Editor, SPORTS NETWORK

Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Only nine thoroughbreds have been entered for Saturday's running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course and the majority of the field will be fresh to make a run at Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Only two other three-year-olds from the Derby will join Barbaro this Saturday, a far cry from last year's Preakness when 10 runners advanced from the Run for the Roses to the second jewel in racing's Triple Crown.

Barbaro's 6 1/2 length victory on the first Saturday in May apparently scared away the connections of most of the other runners, as six new horses will make their Triple Crown debuts in the Preakness.

Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint are the only two horses from the Kentucky Derby who will again face Barbaro. The interesting angle is that Brother Derek was the morning-line favorite and Sweetnorthernsaint was the post-time favorite two weeks ago. Barbaro was the co-second choice in the morning line and the solid second pick when the gates opened.

Two of the new entrants have already been defeated by Barbaro. Last year Diabolical was second to Barbaro in the Laurel Futurity, finishing eight lengths back. Diabolical has never been worse than fourth in his eight starts, and has been in the money seven times.

This year Hemingway's Key finished 11th to Barbaro in the Holy Bull Stakes. In three subsequent starts he has been eighth twice and sixth. Hemingway's Key will be ridden by Jeremy Rose, the winning jockey last year, and the fourth straight new rider for the horse.

Owned by George Steinbrenner, Hemingway's Key is trained by Nick Zito, who did not have a Kentucky Derby starter. Zito is lukewarm about his horse's chances.

"We have a little bit of an outside shot, maybe a middle shot," said Zito.

The top ranked newcomer, at 8-1 odds, is Withers Stakes winner Bernardini. Trainer Tom Albertrani is not surprised with the morning line.

"I guess maybe we're a dark horse off our race earlier in the year," said Albertrani.

Bernardini did not race as a two-year-old and has only three career starts. In his two wins he has not been worse than second during each race.

"He shows a lot of promise," noted Albertrani.

Starting from the inside post will be former Kentucky Derby hopeful Like Now. The gelding won the Gotham Stakes, but missed the Wood Memorial with a minor health issue. He came back with a second-place finish in the Lexington Stakes to Barbaro's stablemate Showing Up. Like Now is expected to set the pace on Saturday.

"Post one is fine here," stated trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, "not like the Kentucky Derby, where there's so much traffic going into the first turn."

Longshot Greeley's Legacy lost to Like Now in the Gotham Stakes when he was fourth. In that race Sweetnorthernsaint finished third. Greeley's Legacy then was seventh in the Wood Memorial and fourth in the Lexington Stakes.

The longest shot at 50-1 is Platinum Couple. The colt has lost badly in the three stakes races he has started this year. Each defeat has been by at least 10 lengths behind the winner.

There is enough early speed in this race to provide an honest pace. Barbaro's jockey, Edgar Prado, will be able to place his mount wherever he feels is best. Barbaro proved in the Kentucky Derby that he has the ability to be positioned anywhere that is necessary to win.

Brother Derek will have no excuses now that he has a great post position in the nine-horse field. Jockey Alex Solis will do best to follow Barbaro as far as Brother Derek can go.

The horse that could surprise is Diabolical. He has never been off the board in any of his starts and has shown improvement over his last three races.

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