Barbaro headed to Kentucky

By wire services
Published April 2, 2006

HALLANDALE BEACH - Michael Matz is taking his first horse to the Kentucky Derby. Along with Florida Derby winner Barbaro, the trainer will bring along his own riveting biography.

Matz, 55, is a three-time Olympian in equestrian and carried the U.S. flag at the closing ceremony at the 1996 Atlanta Games, much of it accomplished after surviving a plane crash in an Iowa cornfield 17 years ago.

The latest chapter in his life unfolded Saturday at Gulfstream Park, when Barbaro beat Sharp Humor by a half length to stamp himself a favorite for the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

Barbaro came off an eight-week layoff and ran his undefeated record to 5-for-5. The son of Dynaformer won impressively, too.

Ridden by Edgar Prado, Barbaro battled pacesetter Sharp Humor nose to nose down the stretch before pulling ahead for good inside the 16th pole.

Barbaro now ranks with Brother Derek and Lawyer Ron among the top Derby contenders. The difference is Barbaro won't run again until the Derby - the others have another prep.

Barbaro's winning time was 1:49.01. The 8-5 favorite in the 11-horse field returned $5.20, $3.60 and $2.80. Sharp Humor ran a strong race after his win in the Swale on March 4 and paid $5.80 and $3.80. Sunriver was third and returned $3.60.

Sharp Humor, Sunriver and Flashy Bull are likely headed to the Derby, too.

WINSTAR DERBY: Bob Baffert may have found another Kentucky Derby contender in his barn.

Wanna Runner, a second-string member of Baffert's stable, romped to a 43/4 lengths win at Sunland Park, N.M. The $600,000 WinStar isn't a graded race and the field Wanna Runner beat was a relatively soft one, but Baffert was impressed enough with the chestnut gelding that he wouldn't rule him out of the derby picture. Sky Diving, also trained by Baffert, finished second, 53/4 lengths ahead of Belligerence. Wanna Runner earned $300,000 and covered the 11/8 miles in 1:48.88. Sent off as the favorite, Wanna Runner paid $3.80, $3.00 and $2.20.

SPRINT CLASSIC: McAllister Kennels' Flying Yager and Brady Thomas of Floyd & Porter Kennel won third-round qualifying races in the $85,000 event at Derby Lane.

Flying Yager posted a box-to-wire win as the even-money favorite. His 550-yard time was 30.01 seconds. Cajun Cain was second and held the points lead with 42. Legends Field was third. Brady Thomas overtook Jack Whistler near the wire, paying $19.60 to win. His time was 30.22 seconds. Shameless Dream was third.

Times correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.