Favored Roman Emperor charged to the front on the final turn, dueled with Da’ Tara down the lane, then won the Barbaro Stakes for 3-year-olds by a half-length May 17 at Pimlico.
Roman Emperor, owned by Puglisi Stables and trainer Steve Klesaris, won the $100,000 Barbaro after facing much tougher company in his last two starts. March 8, the son of Empire Maker ran fourth behind Visionaire in the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct. In his last start, he was seventh at odds of 25-1, beaten 23 1/2 lengths by Tale of Ekati in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial (gr. I) April 5.
“The race went perfect for us," Klesaris said. "It was a little tight down the stretch, but it turned out perfectly.”
The Nick Zito-trained Da’ Tara took control of the five-horse field from the outset of the 1 1/16-mile race and set splits of :24.63 and :47.80 while traveling easily along the rail. He was tracked by Roman Emperor and Red Sandy.
Heading into the far turn, Da' Tara was challenged by the winner and they traveled six furlongs in a quick 1:10.79 while separating themselves from the rest of the pack. They dueled down the lane with the Jeremy Rose-ridden Roman Emperor getting the advantage while pinning Da’ Tara and John Velazquez along the rail.
After hitting the mile marker in 1:35.56, Roman Emperor went under the wire in a final time of 1:42.10 on a fast track.
“They tried to slow it down a little bit in front of me," Rose said. "I got a hole to go in and moved out. I got up on (Da' Tara) in the last part of the race and my horse was just faster than him.”
“The winner was tough," Zito admitted. "My horse ran good. In fact, he ran great and has a good future. He was inside of that horse. Maybe if he got outside of that horse, it might have been different.”
Roman Emperor is out of the Colonial Affair mare Lady Melesi and was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., John P. Cline II, and Robin P. Cline. The Barbaro winner went through the auction ring twice, first bringing $7,000 from Priamos Yennaris as a Keeneland September yearling from the Lane’s End, agent consignment. He then sold to Puglisi Stables for $110,000 as a 2-year-old at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale from the consignment of Randy Miles. This year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale is May 19-20.
Roman Emperor improved his record to 3-2-1 in eight starts while gaining his first stakes win. The bay colt's last victory came in an allowance race at Philadelphia Park Dec. 8. His earnings improved to $159,803 with the winner's share of $60,000.
The 8-5 choice paid $5.20, $2.80 and $2.20. Da' Tara returned $3.20 and $2.60 while 3 1/4 lengths clear of the closing Spurrier, who was $2.60 to show under Garrett Gomez. Red Sandy and Wesley trailed. M J's Enchanteur and Midnite Communion scratched.
The race was previously run as the Sir Barton Stakes, in honor of the first winner of the Triple Crown in 1919. It was renamed the Barbaro Stakes last year in honor of the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) who broke down in that year’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I).