King at Churchill Downs, Barbaro sure heir to Crown

The Kickoff

May 08, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Just my luck that I'll be covering the Preakness in a couple of weeks and professional ethics prohibit me from betting the plush Millersville estate on Edgar Prado and Barbaro.

There hasn't been a sure thing like this since that old guy told Anna Nicole Smith he was worth a billion dollars.

Nobody is going to mistake me for a horse racing guru - I've lost enough money at the track to buy Paris Hilton an offensive line to go with new quarterback boyfriend Matt Leinart - but when I saw Barbaro shoot out of the final turn at Churchill Downs on Saturday, I knew that the Triple Crown already was a foregone conclusion.

Did you get that down? The Triple Crown is a mortal lock. It's just a matter of time before Barbaro joins the elite ranks of Secretariat, Affirmed, Frank Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski.

The Maryland-trained dark bay colt has never lost a race and Prado is coming back to the area where he built his reputation as one of the nation's best jockeys (though he generally stunk it up every time I bet on one of his rides). The planets are aligned for a triumphant homecoming at Old Hilltop in two weeks ... and a historic victory three weeks later at the Belmont Stakes.

There was some question on Saturday night whether trainer Michael Matz would enter Barbaro in the Preakness, but there could not have been any real doubt. This kind of opportunity doesn't come along every day. The issue was cleared up before lunch yesterday and now the Baltimore buildup can begin.

I was surprised to hear that Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash had won his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player Award yesterday. I was under the impression that Kobe Bryant had left town to accept the award during the second half of Saturday's Game 7 against the Suns.

Seriously, what happened to the guy? He scores 81 points in one game during the regular season and then scores one point in the second half of a must-win playoff game? I haven't seen anybody disappear that fast since the last time it was WBAL serial audience killer Jerry Coleman's turn to pick up a check.

Seems I'm back in the bad graces of Philadelphia sports fans again after Sunday's reference to their boorish behavior during Barry Bonds' first appearance of the year at Citizens Bank Park.

Got a number of angry e-mail messages yesterday pointing out that Philly fans acted no differently than other fans in other cities that Bonds has visited. I don't doubt that - at least nobody threw a turkey baster - but I think I know enough about the true nature of the Philadelphia sports enthusiast to deliver an educated opinion.

I also know that I would have gotten three times as many angry e-mails if I had said that they are just like any other fans. To a true Eagles/Phillies/Flyers fan, those would be fighting words.

Charles Barkley is growing on me. After LeBron James' baseline break to the basket to beat the Wizards in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series last week, Sir Charles told a national television audience that Washington might be "one of the worst defensive teams" he'd ever seen, a thought that had popped into my head at about the same time.

That, of course, was before the Wizzes double-teamed James and got burned by a wide-open Damon Jones with 4.8 seconds left in Game 6, prompting another frank exchange about the Wizards' defensive shortcomings from Barkley and the rest of the NBA post-game crew.

TV quote of the day: "The man is Houdini," exclaimed Orioles broadcaster Jim Hunter after Red Sox pitcher Lenny DiNardo wriggled out of a couple of big jams early in yesterday's game at Fenway Park.

Lenny DiNardo? Sounds like the Orioles got beat by a character from Laverne and Shirley.

Final thought: Guess I've been away from the game for a while, but I could have sworn that being ahead on the count was supposed to be to the pitcher's advantage.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL ( 1090 AM) on Saturdays at noon.

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