“Oh boy, is this great?”
That’s what Kent Dorfman said in Animal House many years ago. And it’s that same adage that could be said right now about the eye-popping and heartwarming performance that was put up this past Saturday at Churchill Downs when Barbaro, the Florida Derby Champion, found his way to the winners circle in the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby.
His gritty and romping performance will be remembered for years to come. He simply toyed with the field at the top of the stretch and drew away under only mild encouragement from jockey Edgar Prado, who won his first Derby as well.
This three-year-old son of Dynaformer, whose offspring are royally bred for the turf, has shown how athletic and versatile he is by winning three races on turf and now three on dirt. He has won at distances ranging from a mile to a mile and a quarter and has never been seriously challenged with the exception of Sharp Humor in the Florida Derby.
The real question is can he do it? Can Barbaro become America’s first Triple Crown Winner since Affirmed accomplished the feat some 28 years ago? Everyone, including jockey Edgar Prado, seems to think it could very well happen.
“All along I had great confidence. When I turned him loose, he took off running,” Prado said after Barbaro’s crushing of the Derby field. “Hopefully we can get a Triple Crown.”
I recall a poll that was put up on the Daily Racing Form website that asked what could most benefit horse racing. Some of the options were: get rid of drugs such as bute and lasix, install more poly-track surfaces, or have more incentives for breeding programs. But the fourth option was “have a Triple Crown winner.” After the results were tallied it was overwhelming how many fans, bettors and handicappers agreed that having a Triple Crown winner is what this sport needs. It was some 60% that said it to be true.
So with Barbaro’s performance this past Saturday in Louisville can it really happen this year? Many of the experts on TVG, Daily Racing Form and other publications are under the assumption it could really happen. Was Michael Matz, the trainer of Barbaro, playing with everyone while giving him 5 weeks from the Florida Derby to the Kentucky Derby? Was he giving him all that time because he knew that this next month is going to be a physically demanding whirlwind?
One thing is for certain, other horses and trainers don’t want to have to face him. Trainer Todd Pletcher, last year’s Eclipse Award-winner for best trainer has admitted so. His horse, Bluegrass Cat, ran a terrific race but was still a distant 2nd to Barbaro and Pletcher will be skipping the Preakness because he is afraid to face the colt again.
“He showed today what we thought all along,” said Pletcher of Barbaro. “I knew we (Bluegrass Cat) were in a good position, but unfortunately for us Barbaro kicked it in and ran his race.”
Trainer Bob Baffert, who had three Derby horses in Sinister Minister, Point Determined and Bob and John, echoed the sentiments of others.
“We weren’t going to beat Barbaro. He was awesome!” May 20th marks the date of the Preakness Stakes and Barbaro should be a heavy favorite. It’s not sure yet who will come east to rival him but as of now we know of some. Brother Derek, Lawyer Ron and Sweetnorthersaint will all be headed for Baltimore. The question is… can anyone inch any closer to this monster? My guess…absolutely not!