Elation was tempered with concern among the winning team of Bernardini after its relatively inexperienced dark bay colt easily won the 131st Preakness Stakes yesterday by 5 1/4 lengths.
While jockey Javier Castellano, trainer Thomas Albertrani and blood stock manager for Darley Stable, John Ferguson, were obviously excited about winning the second jewel of the Triple Crown, much of the talk was about injured favorite Barbaro.
Barbaro, winner of the Kentucky Derby and the favorite yesterday, broke his right hind leg in two places just after leaving the gate and was immediately pulled up by jockey Edgar Prado.
Darley Stable is owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum of the royal family of Dubai.
"Sheikh Mohammed is thrilled that he's won the Preakness but we would have enjoyed it a little bit more if Barbaro was OK right now," Ferguson said. "I just hope that he can be saved and be a fantastic stallion in the future."
Castellano said he kept waiting for Barbaro and Prado to challenge and figured something was wrong. He said his fears where confirmed as he approached the finish line and saw Barbaro surrounded by a crowd.
"You feel very upset when you see something like that happen to the other connections," Albertrani said. "I can understand what [Barbaro trainer Michael Matz] is going through right now."
Yet to be decided is whether Bernardini will run in the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel, in three weeks.
"Sheikh Mohammed will make that decision when Tom [Albertrani] has given him all the facts," Ferguson said.
Bernardini had not run at all as a 2-year-old and competed in his first race in January. Until yesterday, he had had just three starts, and the Belmont Park-stabled colt's most significant outing was a victory in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.
Because of its tight turns, the Preakness is considered a rider's race and Albertrani described Castellano's trip as "picture perfect" with patience being the key.
"He gave me a wonderful ride," Albertrani said. "We talked it out beforehand. He stayed close enough to the lead where he didn't have anything in his way. My only concern was at the half-mile pole when I thought that maybe he wasn't going forward at the time. But he stayed patient with him and he pushed the button."
For Castellano - who won his first Triple Crown race at his first Preakness - when the time came to push Bernardini, he recognized his horse had plenty to deliver what turned out to be a powerful and decisive move down the stretch.
"I knew at the three-eighths pole," Castellano said. "I had plenty of horse, and the two horses in front of me [Like Now and Brother Derek] started tiring. At the quarter pole, when I asked him, he took off."
Before the Preakness, the 28-year-old Venezuela native had his biggest career win in 2004 when he guided Ghostzapper in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He also rode 2005 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner, Saratoga County.
Albertrani said he could never have imagined the Preakness win. A Brooklyn native, he started working with horses at 13 with an uncle. At 18, he was a jockey albeit "not a very good one" by his own admission. In 1982, he started his career as an assistant trainer and in 1995 traveled overseas to the United Arab Emirates for Godolphin Racing. He returned to the United States full time in 2003.
Today, Bernardini will travel back to Belmont Park. Should he run in the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont Stakes, obviously he'll be facing his longest test.
"You just have to say that he's very versatile and that everything from a mile to a mile and a half would be within his compass," Ferguson said of Bernardini. "And he's certainly as well-bred as any horse in the United States, and that obviously makes him very exciting for the future."
As the Preakness neared, Bernardini's bloodlines were his calling card. His sire is A.P. Indy, whose own sire was Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner. Go back far enough in Bernardini's lineage and you'll find Secretariat and Spectacular Bid as well.
"When this horse was born he was an outstandingly good looking individual and very athletic," Ferguson said. "So to be honest, from the day he was born he was what you'd call a very exciting proposition."
Foaled --March 23, 2003
Jockey --Javier Castellano
Trainer --Tom Albertrani
Owners --Darley Stable
Year S 1 2 3 Earnings
2006 4 3 0 0 $760,480
2005 0 0 0 0 $ 0
Totals 4 3 0 0 $760,480
First time, first win
Jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Tom Albertrani each won the Preakness on the first try yesterday, the third time in the past 25 years that both the winning jockey and trainer were Preakness newcomers:
Year Jockey Trainer Horse
2006 Javier Castellano Tom Albertrani Bernardini
2004 Stewart Elliott John Servis Smarty Jones
1982 Jack Kaenel John J. Lenzini Jr. Aloma's Ruler
1875 Tom Ochiltree
1878 Duke of Magenta