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Dec 15, 2006

2006 Year in Review

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

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Invasor may have won the Breeders' Cup Classic, but it is Barbaro who will be remembered as the name of 2006 horse racing.

Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro decisively defeated 19 rivals the first Saturday of May and was practically given the Triple Crown. Barbaro scared off most of the Kentucky Derby runners from the Preakness Stakes. He was made the even- money morning line favorite. Barbaro was bet down to 1-2 at post-time.

Then the 131st Preakness got strange. With the nine horses loaded into the starting gate, Barbaro broke through before the start. He was quickly brought under control by jockey Edgar Prado and brought back to be checked by the vet.

All seemed well and Barbaro was put back into the gate. Shortly after the start tragedy happened, Barbaro became a legend without winning the Triple Crown.

Barbaro suffered a fracture to his right hind leg early in the running of the Preakness. The legend of Barbaro as a survivor started then and there. He made it through surgery the following day and still continues to progress despite some setbacks.

Filling the void left by the early retirement of Barbaro came Bernardini, the Preakness champ, the four-year-old Invasor and five-year-old gelding Lava Man.

Bernardini skipped the Belmont Stakes, won by Jazil, but captured the Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He defeated older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup before the Breeders' Cup Classic where he was the favorite.

Invasor came up from South America to become a major force in North American racing. He won the Pimlico Special, Suburban and Whitney Handicaps on the road to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Five-year-old gelding Lava Man put his name in the history books with victories in the Big Three handicap races in California. Along with wins in the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic, Lava Man won a pair of turf stakes.

Invasor proved to be the top thoroughbred by defeating Bernardini in the Breeders' Cup Classic by a length. Lava Man did not run his race and finished up the track.

As always records were broken in thoroughbred racing. Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze surpassed Laffit Pincay, Jr. as the all-time winningest rider. Baze recorded his record-breaking 9,351st win at Bay Meadows on Friday, December 1.

Seven-year-old gelding Perfect Drift became the first horse to compete in five consecutive Breeders' Cup Classics. The fan favorite, trained by Murray Johnson, is expected back in 2007.

The early Kentucky Derby favorite is Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Street Sense. The colt, owned by James Tafel and trained by Carl Nafzger, can be the first Juvenile champion to win the Run for the Roses.

Trainer Todd Pletcher destroyed his own record for earnings in a year. He won more than $20 million for the second straight year and earned better than $27 million as of early December. Pletcher also broke a pair of records held by D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas' mark of 92 stakes victories in a single year was surpassed by Pletcher in October. Later that month Pletcher went past the Lukas record of 53 graded stakes wins in a year. He has a very good chance of winning his third straight Eclipse Award.

Finally, we close 2006 with continued good news concerning Barbaro. Roy and Gretchen Jackson's colt keeps improving from surgery on his right hind leg. The cast came off in early November and he is recovering from laminitis in his left hind leg. He probably won't start stud service for another year, but as long as he keeps getting better we can't ask anything more.

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