Undefeated Barbaro Conquers All in Derby
by Dan Liebman
Date Posted: 5/6/2006 6:34:33 PM
Last Updated: 6/13/2007 4:04:50 PM

Barbaro becomes sixth unbeaten Derby winner.
Photo: Jeffrey Snyder
No horse had won the Kentucky Derby with a five-week or longer layoff since Needles 50 years ago. But Barbaro showed how special he is by remaining undefeated and winning the 132nd running of the Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) by a wide margin.

Edgar Prado had Barbaro in excellent position throughout the race, in fifth the first time past the stands and in fourth when the field had run a half mile and six furlongs, respectively. As the field cornered for home, the race was over. He made the winning move through the turn as the field straightened away for the stretch. There was a quarter of a mile to run, but Prado simply guided Barbaro to the wire 6 ½ lengths in front.

Bluegrass Cat came on to get second and confirmed closer Steppenwolfer was third, another two lengths back. There was a dead-heat for fourth with Jazil and Brother Derek, the two a length behind Steppenwolfer.

The margin is the largest since Triple Crown winner Assault won the Derby by eight lengths in 1946. There is a connection between Assault and Barbaro. Assault was owned by King Ranch and Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz, is married to D.D. Alexander, a granddaughter of King Ranch's Robert Kleberg.

"It's a great, great, great feeling," Matz said.

As he watched his colt coming down the stretch, the trainer said he had one thought: "Don't fall down."'

Barbaro earned $1,453,200 to boost his career earnings to $2,203,200.

Barbaro won the race in 2:01.36, and paid $14.20, $8, and $6. Bluegrass Cat returned $28.40 and $15.40, and Steppenwolfer was worth $7.80 to show.

The fractions in the 1 ¼-mile race were: 22.69, :46.07, 1:10.88, and 1:37.02.

Eighteen times a horse has been unbeaten coming in to the Derby and Barbaro became the sixth to leave Louisville, Ky., still undefeated. The last was Smarty Jones, just two years ago.

The race was run before the second largest crowed in Derby history, behind only the 163,628 that witnessed the 100th running in 1974. The crowd of 157,536 was slightly higher than the 156,435 that saw Giacomo's upset last year.

Those in attendance had a beautiful day to watch the Derby, with partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 60s.

Barbaro is owned by the Lael Stable of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who bred him in Kentucky. He was foaled and raised at Sanborn Chase Farm. Earlier in the day, George Washington, bred in Ireland by the Jacksons, won the English Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I). (Avalyn Hunter profiles the Derby winner's pedigree).

"I thought it was the best race I've ever seen," Gretchen Jackson said.

The Jacksons had another horse in the Derby who also was undefeated. Showing Up had run only three times and finished sixth.

Barbaro was favored until right before the race was run when Sweetnorthernsaint's odds dropped to 5-1 and Barbaro went to 6-1.

For a while, it looked like the race might produce the longest priced Derby favorite in history, which was Harlan's Holiday, who was 6-1 in 2002 and finished seventh. There were six horses with odds of less than 10-1 that year, just as there were for this year's running, showing what a difficult time the public had in deciding on a favorite.

The complete order of finish was: Barbaro, Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer, Jazil, Brother Derek, Showing Up, Sweetnorthernsaint, Deputy Glitters, Point Determined, Seaside Retreat, Storm Treasure, Lawyer Ron, Cause to Believe, Flashy Bull, Private Vow, Sinister Minister, Bob and John, A. P. Warrior, Sharp Humor, and Keyed Entry.

It was the first Derby win for Matz, and marked the fourth consecutive year the winning trainer was getting his first Derby victory. He joins Barclay Tagg with Funny Cide in 2003, John Servis and Smarty Jones in 2004, and John Shirreffs and Giacomo in 2005.

It also was the first Derby win for Prado.

"Down the backside, he was just galloping along," Prado said. "I wasn't even moving my hands. He's covers a lot of ground and was very happy every step of the way."

Prado was pointing to the horse and the crowd responded as he was heading toward the winner's circle. "I was thankful and excited. I think this is a special horse. I was celebrating," the jockey said.

Prado had mounts in six previous Derbys, his best prior finish third on Peace Rules in 2003.

Barbaro made his first three starts on turf, not surprising since he is by Dyanformer, who gets top horses on both surfaces. He is out of the Carson City mare La Ville Rouge. Barbaro broke his maiden at Delaware Park last October and then won the Laurel Futurity by eight lengths. On the first day of 2006, he won the Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT).

Matz then switched him to the dirt, and he won the Holy Bull (gr. III) on a sloppy Gulfstream Park racetrack. On April 1, with the Florida Derby (gr. I) moved to five weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby, he won by a half length to run his record to five-for-five.

Matz was questioned about the five week layoff, but he said it is a moot point.

"Really no one made a big deal out of it except the media," he said. "No horseman I talked to did. He trained well since he came from Florida. We've never missed anything in his training. We never wavered from our plan."

Matz, an Olympic equestrian silver medalist, said he now has a fresher horse for the Preakness (gr. I), which will be run at Pimlico May 20.

"This is a very excellent horse," Prado said. "All the time he showed me the quality horse he is ... dreams come true."

(Chart, Equibase)

To purchase photos of Barbaro from this year's Kentucky Derby, click here.



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