Barbaro gets No. 6 post, between `Derek,' `Saint'

Winner of Derby even-money favorite in nine-horse field

The Preakness

May 18, 2006|By SANDRA MCKEE | SANDRA MCKEE,SUN REPORTER

Brother Derek and Sweet- northernsaint have Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro surrounded for the start of the 131st Preakness Stakes on Saturday, but trainer Michael Matz said he doesn't feel hemmed in.

"Not at all," Matz said. "I'm not concerned about Brother Derek or Sweetnorthernsaint. I have enough on my plate training Barbaro, and I like where I am for the start."

Choosing third in yesterday's draw, Matz was able to get the No. 6 post, but the drama built for his pick. With a minute to walk to the podium and make his selection, Matz continued to sit at his table with owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson and discuss the choice. With 15 seconds left, he got up, walked to the front of the room and as time ran out said, "We'll take Post 4."

But Post 4 had been selected by Greeley's Legacy trainer George Weaver. So Matz tried again and took No. 6. Brother Derek will start in the No. 5 slot and Sweetnorthernsaint in No. 7.

"I had 4 on my mind," Matz said later. "I wanted No. 4 and I tried to get it, but they wouldn't give it to me. You can't blame me for trying, can you?"

Besides Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint - the only Kentucky Derby contenders who have entered the second leg of the Triple Crown - Barbaro will have six other, new horses standing in his way as he continues the chase for the Triple Crown, accomplished by just 11 horses since Sir Barton won the first in 1919.

Among the new faces are Withers Stakes winner Bernardini, who has been made the morning-line fourth choice at 8-1, behind Barbaro (even), Brother Derek (3-1) and Sweetnorthernsaint (4-1). Gotham Stakes winner Like Now, a 12-1 choice in the No. 1 post, will bring speed, as will Diabolical (50-1) in the ninth hole.

Hemingway's Key will be at No. 3, with Platinum Couple inside him in No. 2.

Brother Derek's trainer, Dan Hendricks, said he already is off to a better start in the Preakness than he was at Churchill Downs, where his horse had to start far outside in the No. 18 post in a 20-horse field.

"I hope I didn't come off sounding like I was whining about the Derby," said Hendricks, who was initially upset with the draw in Kentucky. "I've just been trying to explain how it was. The far outside post, the wide trip, 20 horses. I certainly can't complain about the draw here.

"Leading up to the Derby, I said over and over [that Barbaro] was the Derby favorite. He was the undefeated horse, and he proved he deserved to be the top horse. But now, I hope to come back and knock him off the top. That's what we try to do in every sport: beat the best."

Sweetnorthernsaint also hopes to beat the best. Trained by Mike Trombetta, "The Saint" will start just outside of Barbaro, a place from which Trombetta said jockey Kent Desormeaux "should have no problem keeping a close eye on him."

Hendricks said he would rather be outside of Barbaro, and Trombetta said he'd rather be inside of him. Neither man wants to just let Barbaro have things his own way.

"You've got to make a decision how you want to run." Trombetta said. "If he's going to beat you, you want to make him go around you."

Asked if the undefeated Derby winner is beatable, Trombetta said if a horse lines up to race, he can be beaten, and Hendricks agreed.

"To beat him, someone has to outrun him," Hendricks said. "If we're good enough, we can do it."

smm2me@aol.com

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