Barbaro enjoys a fair time at Fair Hill

The Preakness


FAIR HILL -- After winning the Kentucky Derby, Barbaro returned home to Cecil County as a bona fide celebrity and he has been getting the royal treatment.

"Any little thing you need is taken care of," said trainer Michael Matz of the accommodations at the tranquil Fair Hill Training Center. "They'll rake the track and roll it or put sand in the shedrow instead of using a wheelbarrow to take it in bit by bit. They're very amenable here to everything. They're glad to help you."

Matz moved to this serene setting after a tiff with the late William Rickman, Sr., the owner of Delaware Park. He purchased a barn, then built another and now most of his stable is in Maryland.

"The people here are relaxed and you don't have the track closing at 10 o'clock [in the morning] to get ready for the day's racing," he said. "And when you come here with your stalls, you don't have to answer to anyone. Like when we got to Florida [for the winter]. You ask for 40 stalls and they tell you you can have 30. What am I going to do with the other 10 horses?"

The training center is operated by Sally and Mike Goswell and it is a haven for conditioners because of the excellent facilities, relaxed atmosphere and location. With a six-hour drive, a trainer can reach eight or nine tracks on the Eastern Seaboard.

"It's wonderful," said Steve Klesaris, trainer of Diabolical, another Preakness entry who is quartered just yards away from Barbaro. "You have everything you need here."

Barbaro, who was foaled April 29 and is still maturing, seems very content in the leisurely atmosphere. "He has trained well and really, there's not too much to do except keep him happy," Matz said. "But if you don't do enough, he's gets a little full of himself."

So, the preparations have included trots and gallops, including yesterday's one-mile jaunt over the dirt track.

"He's a pretty smart horse," Matz said. "I think he knows [what's coming]. I think when we get him to Pimlico, he'll be pumped up for it."

Diabolical -- like Barbaro -- will ship to Pimlico tomorrow afternoon.

"He's a good colt who deserves this opportunity," Klesaris said. "It's a million-dollar purse and a lot of the field is coming back in two weeks. It's hard to get to Louisville and also beyond Louisville. We're going to give him this chance."

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