Each year, trends in racing seem to be changing, and having a fresh horse is what most trainers now seem most comfortable with. That was evident in Thursday's NTRA teleconference, when the trainers of Barbaro, Brother Derek, and Sweetnorthernsaint said they would not work their horses prior to the May 20 Preakness (gr. I).
Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz, did say he might let the winner of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) go out a quarter or three-eighths one morning, but nothing has been decided yet. Dan Hendricks, trainer of Brother Derek, and Michael Trombetta, trainer of Sweetnorthernsaint, said their horses would just gallop up to the race.
"It will be day-to-day," Matz said. "We'll gallop him, and if he tells us he wants more, we'll do a little more. He jogged on Wednesday, and it was like he hadn't run. We'll keep him here at Fair Hill (Training Center), and we haven't decided yet when we'll van to Pimlico. It's quiet here, and we were able to turn him out in the round pen and graze him for an hour in the morning and afternoon. He's back in his own stall and he's happy and enjoying himself. One minute he's handling himself in front of 150,000 people and the next he's out here grazing. He's a pretty special horse."
With rain in the forecast over the next few days, Matz said he'll likely train Barbaro over the wood chip track, which actually gets better the wetter it is.
Hendricks and Trombetta are hoping for a better trip than they had in the Derby, and are looking forward to getting another shot at Barbaro.
"I won't work him," Hendricks said of Brother Derek. "I'll just give him a very strong gallop on Wednesday before we leave. He's always worked very lightly before his races. He bounced out of the race great, as good as any of his other races, and this may have been the best race he's ever run, considering the post and the trip he had."
"This will be a different race. I'm just hoping with a clean trip, I can outrun Barbaro this time, and if it comes to it, out-dogfight him. If we can't then I hope he wins the Triple Crown."
Hendricks said Brother Derek would have to win the Preakness impressively to go on to the Belmont. "A mile and a half is an odd race, but I can't rule anything out completely," Hendricks said. "We had fun at the Derby, and Cecil (owner Peacock) went away with a big smile on his face. So, if we run well in the Preakness, bring on the Belmont."
Trombetta said he knew right from the start he was in trouble when Sweetnorthernsaint was unable to get position and dropped back in the pack, only to run into traffic problems while stuck down on the rail.
"We knew the rail was not the place to be, but there was nothing we could do about it," he said. "He just needs to be in the clear. He has a high cruising speed and if you bottle him up its hard on him. We got to the bottom of him, but he recovered quickly with no harm done and he'll rebound fine. We're confident with the strong middle move he made that he belongs these horses.
"I opted to go without a work and take a fresh horse over there. He jogged the last two days, and we'll get some nice gallops in. Next Saturday is going to creep up quickly. We'll ship to Pimlico Saturday morning. We're only 20 miles away, Laurel is home, and there's no need to disrupt the horse's routine. It's nice and quiet here."