The Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer had won his first three starts on the grass. And he hadn't won since the Florida Derby, five weeks ago. Adding to the mix, he stumbled badly at the start of the Derby as jockey Edgar Prado hung on.
But Barbaro recovered quickly, got excellent position right behind the speeding leaders and bided his time until the field hit the top of the stretch. Then, when Gomez asked him for run, the dark bay colt simply blew away the competition. With only mild encouragement, he won by 6 1/2 lengths, with something left.
"He stumbled a little bit coming out of the gate," Gomez said. "But he recovered right away. You see what he did when I turned him loose. He took off like a rocket. I never had a doubt about this horse.
"Hopefully, we can get the Triple Crown."
Only five other horses have won the Kentucky Derby as unbeatens. The last was Smarty Jones in 2004. The only one who went on to win the Triple Crown as an unbeaten was Seattle Slew in 1977.
Trainer Michael Matz was questioned about the 5-week layoff between the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby -- a longer vacation than most trainers like to give Derby contenders. The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby off a 5-week break was Needles in 1956.
Now, Matz has a "fresh" horse with one-third of the grueling Triple Crown already under his belt.
"We have to think that way," Matz said Sunday, after reporting Barbaro doing well. "We're sort of taking one race at a time and we've got one down, two to go."
Barbaro was headed home to Fair Hill in Maryland on Sunday. "Then we can get everyone there to regroup," Matz added.
Lemons Forever dawdled near the back of the pack in Saturday's $500,000 Kentucky Oaks until the turn for home. Then, jockey Mark Guidry got the Lemon Drop Kid filly moving on the far outside and she swept by the field. At the wire, Lemons Forever was clear by 1 1/2 lengths, with Ermine second and Bushfire finishing third. Bushfire, however, then was disqualified to sixth for interference in the stretch, promoting Wait a While to show money. Lemons Forever, trained by Dallas Stewart, ran the 1 1/8 mile in 1:50.07 and paid $96.20 to win. Her only previous stakes try was the Bourbonette Breeders' Cup at Turfway Park in March, where she finished third. "This is a great feeling," said Stewart. "Great to be the trainer and the co-owner. Mark gave her a great ride. She lapped the whole field to come from last to win a big, big race." Guidry said he tried to find running room between horses for Lemons Forever, "but every time I found a seam or something, it closed up. I had horse and I did not want to get her stopped at all and she showed what I thought she could."
In other weekend racing:
On Saturday's Derby undercard:
-- Trickey Trevor, idle since February, returned with a bang by capturing the $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap. After tracking the pace, the 7-year-old, Florida-bred son of Demaloot Demashoot shot to the lead in the upper stretch and went on to win by 3 lengths over With Distinction. Level Playingfield was third. Trickey Trevor, with Russell Baze aboard, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:21.68. He finished seventh in the CDH last year after setting the pace.
-- Joint Effort rebounded from a pair of dull efforts to win the $100,000 La Troienne Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3 1/4 lengths over Adieu, who was making her first start since a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall. Joint Effort, a Florida-bred filly by Runaway Groom, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:28.18 under Edgar Prado. She now has three wins and three seconds in six starts at Churchill Downs.
-- Mirabilis rolled to the lead at the top of the stretch in the $100,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile, opened up a big lead and held on to win by 1 length over Special Grayce. More Than Promised was third. Mirabilis was clocked in 1:35.93 with Patrick Valenzuela up. Mirabilis is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Lear Fan. She had not won in three previous U.S. tries since shipping in from France late last year.
-- Pussycat Doll had to weave through some traffic in the $250,000 Humana Distaff but got the job done anyway, winning by 1 length over the favorite, Behaving Badly. Bending Strings was third. Pussycat Doll, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Real Quiet, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:21.62 for Garrett Gomez. She won the LaBrea at Santa Anita two starts earlier with a big Beyer Speed Figure.
-- English Channel served notice on the Turf division with a hard-fought but impressive victory in the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. After pressing the pace under jockey Garrett Gomez, the 4-year-old Smart Strike colt went to the lead with just a 16th to run and held off the late charge of Cacique to win by 1/2 length. Milk It Mick was third. English Channel ran the 9 furlongs in 1:47.15. English Channel was almost unbeatable last year against other 3-year-olds, then finished second to Shakespeare in the Turf Classic at Belmont and a fairly dismal fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf. He started this year's campaign with a win in the Canadian Turf Handicap. "His heart makes three of him," Gomez said. "He's a talented horse and he's got a huge heart." Trainer Todd Pletcher said will point English Channel to the Manhattan at Belmont on June 10.
On Friday's Kentucky Oaks undercard:
-- Oonagh Maccool took the circle route around the leaders as the field turned for home in the $300,000 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares and then dominated the stretch run, winning off by 3 1/4 lengths. La Reason was second and Gallant Secret third. Oohagh Maccool, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Giant's Causeway, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.96 under Rafael Bejarano. She came into the race off an impressive victory in the Rampart Handicap at Gulfstream in March. "She acts like she's something special. She really does," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. He said she will run back in the Fleur de Lis on June 17.
-- Man of Illusion, an impressive Australian import, rallied in deep stretch to catch Justice for Auston and win the $100,000 Aegon Turf Sprint by a neck. Atticus Kristy was third. Man of Illusion, a 5-year-old, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.28 seconds with Julien Leparoux up. Man of Illusion was third in his only previous U.S. start -- the Shakertown at Keeneland. Trainer Patrick Biancone said the Jaipur, at Belmont on May 28, will be the next stop for Man of Illusion.
-- Stream Cat rallied from last in a scratch-shortened field of six to win the $100,000 Crown Royal American Turf for 3-year-olds by a neck over Go Between. Gaelic Storm was third. Stream Cat was making his first start since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall and only his second start on the grass. He had a chip removed from his right front knee after the Juvenile. He ran the 1 1/16 mile of the Crown Royal in 1:42.27 for jockey Julien Leparoux. "Everybody wanted the lead and I just waited," Leparoux said. Trainer Patrick Biancone said he will ship his colt to Colonial Downs for the Colonial Turf Cup on June 24 and the Virginia Derby on July 15 -- each worth $1 million.
-- Gouldings Green rallied nicely through the lane to win the $100,000 Alysheba Stakes by a head over Wild Desert, with Andromeda's Hero third. Gouldings Green, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred horse by Charismatic, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.37 for jockey Corey Lanerie. He ran a fading third in the Oaklawn Handicap in his last previous outing. "I felt that this horse was really doing well," said winning trainer Tony Reinstedler. "I felt he deserved a chance to win a stake."
-- Magnificent Song came five-wide into the stretch and just caught Fiery Dancer in the shadow of the wire to win the $100,000 Edgewood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1/2 lengths. May Night was third on this May afternoon. Magnificent Song, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Unbridled's Song, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf with Garrett Gomez in the irons. "We might think about putting her back on the dirt at some point," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "But for right now, we'll stick with what's working."
George Washington, Europe's champion 2-year-old in 2005, won Saturday's Two Thousand Guineas Stakes at Newmarket in England by 2 1/2 lengths over Sir Percy. Olympian Odyssey was third. George Washington, with Kieren Fallon up, finished the 1 mile on "good" going in 1:38.86 after lagging behind the pace for the first half of the race. He was bred by Lael Stables, which also bred Saturday's Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro. Fallon told the British Press Association he "went a bit earlier than I wanted to. He won so easy. He's got an electrifying turn of foot. He's done everything right. He's a great horse, all right." Last year, George Washington, an Irish-bred colt, won a pair of Group 1 events at the Curragh -- the National and the Phoenix.
Sunday, Speciosa led throughout in posting a 2 1/2-length win in the One Thousand Guineas at Newmarket. With Michael Fenton in the irons, the filly set an easy pace and had plenty in reserve to repel the late bid of Confidential Lady, who finished second. Speciosa ran the 1 mile on "soft" turf in 1:40.53. Nasheej was third. The favorite, Rumplestiltskin, was seventh.
Hello Liberty said hello to the winner's circle after Saturday's $200,000 Nassau County Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies. After rating behind Win McCool through most of the race, Hello Liberty went up on the inside to challenge in the stretch and got the lead in the final yards, winning by a neck. It was 5 1/4 lengths farther back to the third-place finisher, Swap Fliparoo. The favorite, Crystal Current, got a bad start and finished fifth of six. Hello Liberty, a Kentucky-bred filly by Forest Camp, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.65. "Going inside was just a split-second decision," said winning rider Norberto Arroyo Jr. "I saw (Win McCool) started to drift. If I try to go around her, maybe we get beat."
Oprah Winney was right out on the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Bouwerie Stakes for New York-bred, 3-year-old fillies and hung on to win by 3/4 length over stablemate Ice Cool Kitty. Homerette was third. Oprah Winney, a gray daughter of Royal Academy, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:23 4/5 for Kentucky Derby winner Edgar Prado. "She was the best horse in the race," said winning trainer Richard Dutrow. "She had everything go her way."
Foxysox remained undefeated in the United States by winning Saturday's $100,000 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 1/4 length over Arlene. Shermeen was third. Foxysox, a British-bred daughter of Foxhound, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:25.28 under Alex Bisono. "She broke sharp and I was able to get good position," said Bisono. "In the lane, she got a little bored and she wanted to lug in a little bit. But I had plenty of horse so she was able to get the job done."
Bettarunfast came from off the pace to win Saturday's $100,000 Railbird Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3/4 length over Mystery Girl. Sol Long Sonoma finished third as the favorite. Bettarunfast, a Florida-bred filly by Kelly Kip, got the 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:23.29. "She broke well and naturally I could have made the lead," said winning rider Aaron Gryder. "But I was able to get her to come back to me. Once we were behind them, she settled nicely."
Star Parade wrested the early lead from favorite Health Addiction in Sunday's $100,000 Hawthorne Handicap, then held on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Hollywood Story, last year's winner. Star Parade, with Martin Pedroza up, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.26. The Argentine-bred is trained by Darrell Vienna. "She always runs well on this race track," Vienna said.
Golden Gate Fields
Racing fans who had a dream about Sunday's feature, the $150,000 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares, came away with a nice trifecta. Hallowed Dreams rallied four-wide on the turn and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Sky Dream. Dreams Come True completed the dreamy tri, worth $392.50. Dennis Carr rode Hallowed Dreams, an Irish-bred daughter of Alhaarth, over 9 furlongs of firm turf in 1:47.76.
Atlas Shrugs rallied along the rail in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Queenston Stakes for 3-year-olds, then held on to win by a neck over Edenwold. Town Thief was 1/2 length farther back in third. Atlas Shrugs, an Ontario-bred son of Compadre, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:24.12 with Corey Fraser on board. It was his second straight win on the Queen's Plate trail, following an upset victory in the Woodstock Stakes last month. "He pulled through and showed a lot of guts again," said Fraser. "There wasn't anywhere else to go. I tried to drift outside but I was blocked. He showed his heart." Trainer Reade Baker said he will use the June 4 Plate Trial as a final Queen's Plate tune-up for Atlas Shrugs. The Queen's Plate is set for June 25.
On Sunday, Gumboots led almost all the way in the $150,000 Fury Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Headed at the half-mile, the Ontario-bred Storm Boot filly came back to take the lead, then held on to win by a neck over Like A Gem. She got the 7 furlongs in 1:24.13 under David Clark.
Purim, a proven graded stakes competitor, was the easy winner of Sunday's inaugural running of the $100,000 Avers Wexler Illinois Owners Stakes -- an event restricted to horses owned by Illinois residents. With Robby Albarado up, the 4-year-old son of Dynaformer got the 1 1/16 mile on "good" turf in 1:42.02. No Tolerance was second and Major Rhythm third. "I wanted to get him back on the grass," said winning trainer Tom Proctor, who sent out Purim to win the Arlington Classic last year and the Razorback Handicap on the main track at Oaklawn earlier this year. "He relaxes a little more than he did last year. He'll run either turf or dirt. The main thing is to put him in where he can make money."
Watchem Smokey set a track record in winning Saturday's $75,000 John Henry Stakes by 1 3/4 length over Commander Buck. Pressed finished third. Watchem Smokey, a 6-year-old, Oklahoma-bred gelding, rated behind the early pace, came three-wide around the turn and accelerated past the pace-setters through the stretch run. He finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.61 with Kerwin Clark aboard.
Tampa Bay Downs
Revved Up got the engine revving in the final furlongs of Saturday's $75,000 Chris Thomas Turf Classic, drawing off in the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Ballonenostrikes. Big Tex completed the trifecta. Revved Up, an 8-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Sultry Song, ran the "about" 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:48.25.
Jewels N Gems sparkled in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares. After running near the back of the nine-horse field, Jewels N Gems got through on the rail and went on to win by 1 length over Jabalski Princess. Yes It's Gold finished third. Jewels N Gems is a 5-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Acceptable.
Rock Lobster came from last of six to win Saturday's $75,000 Woodlawn Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3/4 length over Extra Blend. Unbridled Behavior finished third. Rock Lobster, a Florida-bred colt by Mt. Livermore, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:44.06 for jockey Joe Rocco Jr.
Urban Guy got to the front on the turn in Saturday's $75,000 Francis "Jock" LaBelle Memorial for 3-year-olds and went on to win by 1 1/4 length over Mikes'goodandtough. City Dweller was third as the favorite. Urban Guy, a Kentucky-bred son of Marquetry, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.20 with Stewart Elliott in the irons.
Outcashem outran 'em in Saturday's $75,000 Panhandle Handicap. Breaking from the rail, the 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Mazel Trick led every jump of the way and got home 3/4 length ahead of Yucatan. Danieltown and Run Zeal Run completed the order of finish. Outcashem, with Travis Dunkelberger aboard, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 57.86 seconds.