Steve Haskin's Preakness Analysis: Can Barbaro Get 'Berned?'

Steve Haskin's Preakness Analysis: Can Barbaro Get 'Berned?'
Photo: NTRA/Horsephotos
Haskin: Will Bernardini be the one?
Trying to analyze this year's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) based on observations and training is not easy when you basically see only one horse train. With seven of the nine horses entered still not even on the grounds as of this writing, there is an odd precedent being set this year.

So, that aspect of the analysis will be short and sweet. Barbaro has been soaking up the tranquility of the Fair Hill Training Center and all indications are that he came out his emphatic victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in excellent shape.

The son of Dynaformer had several spirited gallops this week, a sharp blow out on Thursday, and other days in which he did less. He appears to have held his flesh well, and his open gallop followed by a quarter-mile blowout was strong. The colt is much more relaxed than he was at certain times at Churchill Downs, most notably leaving the track after training.

As a betting prospect, he obviously does not offer value unless you play him in the exotics. But no matter how you look at it, he is undefeated, has all the tools to be something special, and until someone finds a way to beat him, it is difficult to go against him.

If you do want to try to find someone to upset him, you'll first have to try to separate Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint. The latter has been at Laurel, and his physical condition and overall demeanor will have to be pure speculation. All reports say he's rebounded strongly this week and is heading into the Preakness the right way.

As for Brother Derek, one must decide, as is the case with Barbaro and Sweetnorthernsaint, whether the Derby took enough out of him to cause a regression coming back in two weeks. Judging from little time spent with him, it is safe to say that Brother Derek has bounced out of his nightmare trip in the Derby in excellent shape.

He looks awesome physically, and was his usual self in his once-around gallop this morning, gliding along as if he's barely touching the ground. His coat and flesh look great, and if he gets the kind of trip trainer Dan Hendricks and jockey Alex Solis are hoping for, he should give Barbaro at least a run for his money this time. And a victory would certainly not come as a surprise at all.

The fact that his connections, with the choice of breaking just inside Barbaro or just outside him, chose the former indicates they want him in front of the Derby winner, and to try to get the jump on him this time.

If you like Barbaro to repeat, or Brother Derek or Sweetnorthernsaint to turn the tables, you can either box all three and get little return, or you can pick one and key him in the exotics with a few of the price horses.

Of the others, there are mixed feelings regarding Bernardini. Having only three career starts is worrisome, as is never having been around two turns. Those two negatives by themselves would be enough of a deterrent, but there is one positive that makes you want to take a shot and play him prominently in all your wagers. That positive is his talent, of which there is an abundance. In fact, the son of A.P. Indy may just turn out to be one of, if not the most talented 3-year-old in the country.

He is at a big disadvantage in the Preakness because of his lack of seasoning and experience, but he was so impressive in his last two starts, there is that nagging thought that maybe this colt is a freak. Watching him come down the stretch in a maiden race at Gulfstream in March was one of those eye-opening, jaw-dropping sights you rarely see. He's a powerful, good-looking colt, with a huge stride and flawless action.

In that race, he soundly defeated High Finance by 7 3/4 lengths. High Finance came back to break his maiden by 9 1/4 lengths at Keeneland, and then won an allowance race at Belmont by five lengths in 1:34 4/5 for the mile.

Trainer Tom Albertrani truly believes the colt is special and can overcome his lack of seasoning and experience. If he had another race or two under him, I would love him in here at a price, but because he is so professional and is such an immensely talented horse, I still feel he is going to make his presence felt in a major way. Can he beat the big three? It is a difficult assignment to say the least, but if anyone can do it under the circumstances he's in, it is this horse.

Another horse that has not shown up yet is Like Now, who will likely be the speed, breaking from the rail. This is a fast, tough little horse who will try to sneak off and let the others battle each other in a game of wits. But you can bet Brother Derek, although having one eye on Barbaro, will keep this horse in his sights at all times.

Now comes the super duper longshot portion of the analysis. I have liked Greeley's Legacy since watching him blow his field away on the far turn in an allowance race over Aqueduct's inner track. His fourth in the Gotham, beaten a half-length by Sweetnorthernsaint for third, was strong, especially considering how quickly they came home, and the fact he was stuck down on the rail most of the way. His poor effort in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) over a very sloppy track was a throwout, and he just didn't seem to get hold of that weird Keeneland surface in the Coolmore Lexington (gr. II), in which he finished an even fourth.

The pace setup in the Preakness should be in his favor. He has a good turn of foot that he hasn't been able to use in his last three starts, and he could use that to pick up a piece of it. He's certainly worth putting into your exotics.

So, where does that leave us in terms of betting a race in which not even the trainers have a clue how their horse is going to run? My colleague, Ed Fountaine of the New York Post, suggested a $1 superfecta of Barbaro – Bernardini – all – all for $42. And that really doesn't sound like a bad idea. This is a tough race on which to get a good gauge, and you just have to take some kind of stand. Either that or just sit back and enjoy the show.

If you're simply looking for a longshot for a $2 bet, you can take a chance on Bernardini being a potential superstar, or if you really want to shoot for the moon, you can put a few bucks on Greeley's Legacy. At worst, there's a good chance you'll at least get a good run for your money.

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