Barbaro bred for turf tracks but able to dominate on dirt

May 17, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

FAIR HILL -- By all indications, Barbaro was born to run on grass.

His breeding for the turf is exquisite (Dynaformer out of La Ville Rouge with Roberto his grandsire), and his early races confirmed all the suggestions of his pedigree.

In his second race, he romped in the Laurel Futurity over the grass by eight lengths, and one start later, he scored his first graded victory in Florida's Tropical Park Derby by 3 3/4 lengths on the same surface.

Assistant trainer Peter Brette, who also serves as his exercise rider, said, "It was me, more than anything else, who thought he was a turf horse."

"There was no reason not to" try Barbaro on a main track, trainer Michael Matz said.

"He had worked well on dirt. It would have been pretty silly to spend his whole career on turf. When he won that first race [the Grade III Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park], why not continue?"

"He was a 3-year-old in America," said the English-born Brette. "On dirt was where the opportunities were."

That he has been so successful on both surfaces - he also won the Kentucky Derby 11 days ago - is the most intriguing facet of Barbaro, who jogged three-quarters of a mile and galloped 1 1/2 miles yesterday morning on the dirt track at the Fair Hill Training Center, which had been sealed after heavy rainfall the day before.

Had the conversion not worked out so magnificently, Barbaro probably would have been steered toward the more lucrative turf races this summer, such as the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs. Now, Matz has his choice.

The trainer confirmed that Barbaro will arrive at Pimlico on Friday after spending most of the two weeks between the Triple Crown races in the idyllic setting of his home base. Shipping late to the track has been standard procedure in his career.

"It's been quiet and tranquil here," Matz said. "He'll have all the rest he'll need. We'll take him down Friday afternoon and take him to the track on Saturday for a look."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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