That Roman Emperor likes the 1 1/6-mile distance has already been proven. Whether he’ll bounce back from a seventh-place finish in the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial (gr. I) remains to be seen. We’ll find out when the Steve Klesaris trainee leads a field of seven 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Barbaro Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
Part of the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) undercard at Pimlico, the Barbaro has drawn familiar contenders such as the Todd Pletcher-trained Spurrier and Nick Zito trainee Da’ Tara. But Roman Emperor is the only stakes-placed runner in the field, and his solid form prior to the Wood makes the son of Empire Maker the likely favorite at post time.
Owned by Puglisi Racing, Klesaris, and Ruby Stables, Roman Emperor turned in his best career performance to date going the Barbaro’s distance of 1 1/16 miles when he fought a game neck-and-neck battle down to the wire with Barrier Reef in the Feb. 2 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct. Following a gutsy half-length runner-up effort, he ran fourth in the foggy Gotham Stakes (gr. III) March 8. In the Wood, however, he had more than foul weather to blame for his loss – after racing in fourth he was steadied sharply on the second turn and lost all chance at competition.
Bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey Jr., John P. Cline II, and Robin P. Cline out of the Colonial Affair mare Lady Melesi, Roman Emperor has back-to-back scores in his maiden debut and an allowance race to his credit, both coming at Philadelphia Park. All of his other starts – including a third-place effort in the Count Fleet Stakes back in January – came at Aqueduct.
Aside from Peachtree Stable’s Spurrier (a son of Dixieland Bandwho also comes off a sixth-place finish in the Wood), Robert LaPenta’s Da’ Tara (a Tiznowcolt whose last effort was fifth in the April 26 Derby Trial), and the Shortleaf Stable’s D. Wayne Lukas trainee Red Sandy (a Yes It's Truerunner whose uninspiring eighth-place finish in a May 3 allowance race at Churchill followed an even more dismal 10th in the April 19 Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) at Keeneland), the other Barbaro entrants have yet to try stakes company.
Ben Mondello and Adam Russo’s M J’s Enchanteur, trained by Scott Lake, has faced the best company of the two. The Metfield colt trounced a field of $42,000 allowance horses by 5 ½ lengths last time out, going a mile at Delaware Park May 4. A former claimer, he has a 3-1-3 record from 10 starts to his name.
Steven Newby’s Midnite Communion, a son of Tiznow, won a $30,000 allowance race at Pimlico for local conditioner Dale Capuano April 24, after breaking his maiden April 3 at Laurel. Both scores came off the front end, as the colt wired the field.
Willmott Stables’ Wesley takes a jump in class after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct April 19 in his fourth start for trainer Mark Hennig. The El Pradorunner was a $450,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase.
Barbaro Stakes (ungraded, race 7, approximate post 2:06 p.m.), 1 1/16-miles for 3-year-olds, dirt
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Roman Emperor, 116, Jeremy Rose
2. M J's Enchanteur, 116, Abel Castellano, Jr.
3. Spurrier, 116, Garrett Gomez
4. Midnite Communion, 116, Kent Desormeaux
5. Da' Tara, 116, John Velazquez
6. Red Sandy, 116, Edgar Prado
7. Wesley, 116, Javier Castellano