Barbaro Breaks Away
Sunday, May 7, 2006
LOUISVILLE, May 6 -- Throughout the Kentucky Derby prep races, jockey Edgar Prado kept his options open regarding who he might ride in the big race. Even after he guided Barbaro to victory in the Florida Derby, Prado said he thought the undefeated colt was a better runner on turf than dirt.
On Saturday, Prado found out Barbaro just might be better on dirt after all. Much better.
Galloping like a powerful machine on the far turn, Barbaro pulled away from one of the deepest Kentucky Derby fields in years, winning America's signature horse race by 6 1/2 lengths, the largest margin since Assault's win in 1946.
Tracking leaders Keyed Entry and Sinister Minister after a brief stumble at the start, Barbaro moved easily to the front when those horses tired at the five-sixteenths pole and effortlessly through the stretch to win in a fast time of 2 minutes 1.36 seconds.
Prado did little more than shake his reins in the stretch as late-running long shots Bluegrass Cat and Steppenwolfer vainly tried to catch up.
Barbaro became the sixth undefeated horse in 132 years to win the Kentucky Derby. For Prado, who rose to stardom in the 1980s riding at Laurel Park and Pimlico, it was his first Derby victory in seven tries.
"I looked back a couple times and saw nobody," Prado said. "The horse up front started dying a little bit. It was just a matter of time before I turned him loose."
Sweetnorthernsaint, the Laurel Park-based horse who received a rush of late betting money to go off as the 5-1 favorite in the field of 20, made a threatening move on the inside on the far turn but lacked his usual power in the stretch and faded to seventh.
Prado rode Barbaro into the winner's circle, pumping his fists at the crowd of 108,065, the second largest in Derby history.
For Barbaro's trainer Michael Matz, 55, who bases most of his horses at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, the victory vindicated his plans from the beginning of Barbaro's campaign.
The colt was bred to be a star grass runner and won the first three races of his career on the turf, including the Laurel Futurity on Nov. 19. But Matz -- a former star equestrian rider who carried the U.S. flag at the Closing Ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics -- believed he had a horse that could win the Kentucky Derby.
He took Barbaro to Florida and won the Holy Bull Stakes over a sloppy track and then the Florida Derby on April 1 by a half-length. After the race, Prado said he still wanted to ride Strong Contender in the Blue Grass Stakes before deciding who to ride in the Kentucky Derby.