Barbaro's local ties give state a needed shot in arm

Kentucky Derby


Local bettors and a state racing official cheered yesterday's Kentucky Derby victory by one of three horses in the race with Maryland ties.

A state industry that has gotten a lot of bad breaks could celebrate the impressive win by Barbaro, trained by Michael Matz. He is based at Maryland's Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County and also has a Delaware stable.

"It's just great for Maryland and I hope it makes Annapolis realize just how important the industry is for our state," said Alvin Akman, a Maryland racing commissioner.

The General Assembly has refused to pass legislation for slot machines that many industry backers say is needed for Maryland tracks to compete with those of other states. The industry was jarred by an equine herpes scare at the start of the year.

But yesterday's result had Akman and others looking ahead to the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course on May 20.

"I would think the immediate results would be to probably have one of the most successful Preaknesses we would ever have," Akman said. "I think anybody who saw the Derby must think this horse has the possibility of being a Triple Crown winner. That in itself would bring the attention of the nation to our area."

Barbaro is undefeated, just as Smarty Jones was when winning the Derby in 2004.

When Smarty Jones, stabled at Philadelphia Park, went for the 2004 Triple Crown, thousands more fans flocked to that hometown track than was usual for the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y. The Philadelphia City Council had even passed a resolution honoring Smarty Jones and declaring that if he won the Triple Crown the city should hold a parade down Broad Street. But the horse came up short.

Yesterday, Maryland had its own local hero. Barbaro joined Sweetnorthernsaint and Point Determined as horses in the field of 20 with state connections.

Moments after the final live race at Pimlico, crowds of bettors swarmed around large screens to watch the Derby.

Mike Chambers, 58, of Baltimore said he put his money on the hometown favorites. "I can say that a lot of people here today are putting their money on Barbaro and other Maryland horses. I know a lot of my buddies are also doing this," Chambers said.

As the gate opened, Chambers put up his fist and started shouting "C'mon!"

Jay Morrissey, 37, of Baltimore stood with Ed Carey, 31, of White Marsh. "This means a lot for Maryland. ... This means a lot for Preakness," Morrissey said after the race. He said that having Maryland horses in the Preakness adds more excitement to an already grand race.

Then he said: "I'm going to see how much money I won."

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