The $1 million Preakness Stakes (G1) is the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, and a record crowd of 118,402 came out to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore under mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures to see if the runaway winner of the Kentucky Derby, Barbaro, could put on a repeat performance on 2 weeks rest and go on to Belmont Park for a shot at the Triple Crown. As expected, he was sent off as the 1-2 favorite after scaring off many of his Derby rivals. Brother Derek was the 3-1 second choice after finishing in a dead heat for fourth at Churchill, while Sweetnorthernsaint was the 8-1 third choice. Both Barbaro and Sweetnorthernsaint are based in Maryland, giving them a hometown advantage.
Before the race started, Barbaro broke through the starting gate and had to be restrained by jockey Edgar Prado and the outriders, delaying the start. Once he got reloaded the field got underway and 17-1 shot Like Now went for the lead right away. Barbaro was on the outside in midpack when suddenly he broke down in his right hind leg just before the finish line first time by. Prado quickly pulled him up and dismounted between the finish and the clubhouse turn, as the field continued around the track. The cheers of the crowd deadened to a stunned silence as people rushed to his aid. Much of the crowd did not watch the rest of the race after this point, instead watching Barbaro. But there was still a race in progress, as Like Now set a pace of 23.21, 46.69, and 1:10.24 while being pressured on the front end by Sweetnorthernsaint and Brother Derek. The quick pace took its toll, as Like Now was through at the 5/16 pole, yielding the lead to Sweetnorthernsaint. However, his lead was short-lived, as 13-1 shot Bernardini, who had rated patiently in 4th the whole way around, was just hitting his best stride. He blew right by the pacesetters early in the stretch, and had a 3 1/2-length lead with a furlong to go. He drew away from Sweetnorthernsaint to prevail by 5 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:54.65 for the 1 3/16 mile classic over a fast track. Late-running Hemingway's Key rallied from seventh to get up for the show spot, 6 lengths back. Once all the horses were past, the equine ambulance quickly came over to take care of Barbaro.
Pgm, Horse, Jockey, Win, Place, Show
8, Bernardini, Castellano, 27.80, 9.40, 5.80
7, Sweetnorthernsaint, Desormeaux, 7.80, 5.00
3, Hemingway's Key, Rose, 8.00
Winning Time: 1:54.65
$2 Exacta 8-7 : 171.60
$2 Trifecta 8-7-3: 3,912.80
$1 Superfecta 8-7-3-5: 11,151.20
First time by with Like Now and Sweetnorthernsaint on the lead. Kent Desormeaux aboard Sweetnorthernsaint said, "I don't think people realize that the first jump out of the gate, he tore his quarter off, which is like pulling your thumb off. Brother Derek took us to the pedal and I had to go full throttle to the half-mile pole. It was not a conventional race where you get to cruise to the half-mile pole. I am very, very proud of the horse.
Bernardini's connections celebrate with the Preakness trophy. John Ferguson, bloodstock manager for winning owner Darley Stable, said, "Prior to being trained by Tom, he was trained by the late great Bob Scanlon, and I just liked to say here and now about he was a great friend to all of us and very sorry to have lost him, and this is in many ways would have been special for him, you know, and I'm sure he's looking down because he did a superb job on this horse right through most of the his two year old career. I think you have to say he's very versatile. Anything from a mile, possibly a mile and a half, would be within his compass. He's certainly as well bred as any horse in the United States and that obviously makes him very exciting for the future."
Bernardini heads back to the barn wearing his Preakness winner's blanket. Winning trainer Tom Albertrani said, "I didn't really think he would win by that far a margin. He just seemed to really extend at the end. Without Barbaro in there, I don't know how much of a margin he might have won if he didn't get injured. He sure came with a explosive run at the end. He had great position into the first turn, and my only concern was about the 1/2 mile pole when Brother Derek went by him, looked like we were maybe back-pedaling a little bit. I got a little worried for a moment. I didn't think he was going to run his race, but when I saw him come back into the picture about 5/16 pole, from there on I knew he was going to just take off."
Barbaro shortly after the start of the race being pulled up in obvious distress. Attending veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) said, "This is a significant injury, and there are at least a couple of things that it are very life-threatening for him. His career is over. This will be it for him as a racehorse. Under the best of circumstances, we're looking go try to save him as a stallion." Bramlage dismissed any suggestion that the injury occurred when Barbaro broke through the starting gate. He felt that Prado knew something was wrong before he horse did, and began to pull him up a furlong out of the gate. However, with the adrenaline of a race, it took him more than 100 yards to stop.
When asked how this could happen, Bramlage used a human example: "Why does a football player turn their ankle, break their tibia? Why does a basketball player blow out their knee? It's all of this excitement and energy certainly but that energy doesn't predispose the fact that he's going to have an injury. It has to be some sort of bad step, load the thing unevenly. Horses have six times our body weight and have about the same amount of ground surface as you or I do and those really elegantly built lower legs are very vulnerable to twisting it as just exactly the wrong angle and create the fracture."
Edgar Prado walks back after the vet starts to care for Barbaro looking upset. Prado said, "When he went to the gate, he was feeling super and I felt like he was in the best condition for this race. He actually tried to buck me off a couple of times. He was feeling that good. He just touched the front of the doors of the gate and went right through it. During the race, he took a bad step and I can't really tell you what happened. I heard a noise about 100 yards into the race and pulled him right up." Barbaro left Pimlico about an hour after the race and arrived at the New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, PA around 9:00PM.
Bernardini in the post parade with Javier Castellano waving to the fans. Castellano said, "The horse was feeling so great all week, he's been training very well. He was really, really sharp today. He broke on top. He showed a lot of speed. He's the kind of horse you can go to the lead or run from off the pace. He broke on top on the first -- I got a great position, right behind the two horses. He hookup with me and I think, you know, I don't want to move too soon. That's why I sit it down on the back side. I took my shot and waited the best I can and the horse responded very well today."
Second place finisher Sweetnorthernsaint returns after the race. His trainer Michael Trombetta said, "Our performance was great. Obviously he got a great trip. It looked like he stumbled a bit coming out. He might have grabbed a quarter. I think it's incidental, and I don't think it's an excuse. It's just a little thing we'll have to patch up."
Third place finisher Hemingway's Key in the post parade. His trainer Nick Zito said, "I'm very happy because he has such a high energy threshold, you think Belmont maybe, because it's a mile and a half. How do I get to know that if I just run in some race?" Jockey Jeremy Rose added, "My horse ran a great race. It set up all right for him. We got thrown around most of the way. It is hard to celebrate with what happened to Barbaro when he gets vanned off and it does not look good. From my vantage point, he broke down right next to me and I saw Edgar (Prado) pull him up. I thought maybe someone came over him or that he might have checked but it looked bad."
PHOTO: Bernardini heads back to the barn wearing his Preakness winner's blanket.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/2006-preakness-stakes-results-winner-5-06.html">2006 Preakness Stakes Results</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com