Barbaro will face smaller field


BALTIMORE (AP) – Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was made the even-money favorite Wednesday for the $1 million Preakness Stakes and its nine-horse field – the smallest since 2000.

The unbeaten Barbaro will leave from the No. 6 post position Saturday, the same post 2004 Derby winner Smarty Jones left from before winning the second leg of the Triple Crown. The post has produced 15 Preakness winners since 1909, the most from any starting gate.

Barbaro’s Derby rivals were the next two betting choices. Brother Derek, the Derby morning-line favorite who finished in a dead heat for fourth. He was made the 3-1 second pick and will leave from the No. 5 post, just inside Barbaro.

Sweetnorthernsaint, seventh in the Derby, was listed at 4-1 by Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli. The Illinois Derby winner drew the No. 7 post.

Asked where he thinks Barbaro’s odds will wind up by post time, Carulli said, “Even money, perhaps a notch lower. I think the wise guys will be coming in on Brother Derek, maybe even Sweetnorthernsaint.”

The six other 3-year-olds in the field are new shooters, with Withers Stakes winner Bernardini, 8-1, leaving from the No. 8 post.

Like Now, the Gotham Stakes winner, was listed at 12-1, followed by Greeley’s Legacy at 20-1, Diabolical and Hemingway’s Key, both at 30-1, and Platinum Couple at 50-1.

There was some confusion during the selection process. Barbaro’s trainer, Michael Matz, chose third during the televised post-position show, and picked No. 4. However, the post had been taken with the first pick by George Weaver, who trains Greeley’s Legacy

Told of his error, Matz chose again and went with No. 6. There was a question about whether he made his second choice within the 60-second limit, but Michael Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, said Matz did.

“He was right in there under the wire by a second or two,” Hopkins said.

Before the draw, Matz said he really didn’t care what post Barbaro broke from.

If all nine start, it would be the smallest field since Red Bullet upset Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus in an eight-horse field. Fusaichi Pegasus finished second as the 3-10 favorite, the last time the Preakness favorite was beaten.

Barbaro, who has won all six of his races, is just the second unbeaten Derby winner since Seattle Slew in 1977. A victory in the 1 3-16-mile Preakness would set the stage in the Belmont Stakes for the colt trained by Michael Matz to attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

With a small field, post positions aren’t a major concern, as they were in the Derby, when Brother Derek left from a far outside post – No. 18 – and was forced to run wide most of the race.

AP-ES-05-17-06 1927EDT