Michael Matz sends Lael Stables' Ready Set in the Barbaro Stakes.

Michael Matz sends Lael Stables' Ready Set in the Barbaro Stakes.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Is Ready Set Ready For Barbaro Stakes?

The son of Touch Gold is close to putting it all together for Michael Matz

From an ability standpoint, Michael Matz has no doubt that Lael Stables’ Ready Set can be a top racehorse. The problem the veteran trainer is having is getting the son of Touch Gold to mature and focus.

“He’s always had ability,” Matz said. “But he’s like a little kid that can’t sit still at the table. He needs time to mature. We’re trying to keep him focused on his business, and if he does that, he can become very good.”

Matz is expecting a big improvement from Ready Set in his next tilt, the $300,000 Barbaro Stakes (gr. III) July 13 at Delaware Park. Six 3-year-olds have been entered in the 1 1/16-mile event on the main track.

Matz said a poor reaction to the whip cost Ready Set in his last race, the June 9 Floor Show Stakes at Delaware Park where he lost to current entrant Magical Forest by a neck.

“He stuck a head in front but when he was hit with the whip he switched leads and bumped the other horse,” Matz said. “It’s little things like that which have distracted him. In the Fountain of Youth he had blinkers on and when he got bumped and couldn’t see, his race was over.”

Ready Set finished tenth in the Feb. 24 Fountain of Youth (gr. II). He followed that up with a three-length allowance victory May 11 at Delaware Park. In all, the bay colt is 3-2-1 from nine starts.

Bred in Kentucky by Rancho San Peasea, Ready Set is out of the Alleged mare Party Cited. Roy and Gretchen Jackson bought him for $800,000 at the Keeneland 2006 yearling sale.

“We’re hoping for big things,” Matz said. “He likes the track, Edgar (Prado) has ridden him before, and he training pretty well.”

The 9-5 morning line favorite in the Barbaro is Ohio Derby (gr. II) runner-up Cherokee Artist. The lightly-raced son of Cherokee Runmade his racing debut in April and has started just three times. Trainer Graham Motion is unsure whether he will start his colt in the Barbaro. If he does, Garrett Gomez will get the mount.

“(The Ohio Derby) was an ambitious step and it is something I do not normally do, but I was not surprised he was up for it," Motion said. "He is still eligible for his allowance conditions, so I am in a little bit of a dilemma which is should I run in the Barbaro or West Virginia Derby or an allowance. It is just an unusual spot to be in."

The second choice on the morning line is Roman Emperor, who enters off a half-length score in Pimlico’s version of the Barabro Stakes on Preakness day. The son of Empire Maker stalked the pace and outdueled the leader in the stretch to win the 1 1/16-mile event. Roman Dominguez will ride him for the first time since his racing debut last October.

"He is coming into the race very well," said trainer Steve Klesaris. "All systems are on go and we expect a big effort from him."

Zayat Stables and trainer Bill Mott have a pair of entries in the Barbaro: Z Humor and Goldsville. The former won the grade III Boyd Gaming's Delta Jackpot Stakes in December and was 14th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

Live coverage of the Barbaro Stakes and Delaware Handicap (gr. II) will begin at 5 p.m. EDT on ESPN2.

$300,000 Barbaro Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, 5:13 p.m.), Three-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Goldsville (FL), 116, Kent Desoemeaux
2. Magical Forest (KY), 116, Jorge Chavez
3. Cherokee Artist (KY), 116, Garrett Gomez
4. Ready Set (KY), 116, Edgar Prado
5. Z Humor (KY), 116, Kent Desoemeaux
6. Roman Emperor (KY), 118, Ramon Dominguez