Stackin’ Cheddar: Recalling Kentucky Derby Winner Barbaro's Stunning Turf Debut

Barbaro, shown winning the 2006 Kentucky Derby, first turned heads when he won his career debut on turf at Delaware Park in October 2005. (Blood-Horse photo)

This is the latest edition of “Stackin’ Cheddar Look-Back,” a new biweekly series on America’s Best Racing. Here, we’ll look back on an early race in the careers of some of the greatest horses of all time, including spots where they went off at a big price.

Oct. 4, 2005

Maiden Special Weight

Race 7, Delaware Park

Generally, people do not think to look for Kentucky Derby prospects in maiden races on the turf at Delaware Park. However, racing fans who tuned into watch and bet Delaware on a sleepy Tuesday afternoon got to witness, and cash in on, a future champion.

The great Barbaro. (Carrie Curry photo)

A son of top stallion Dynaformer, Barbaro was a homebred for Lael Stables, the nom de plume of Roy and Gretchen Jackson. Barbaro’s trainer Michael Matz was a mid-Atlantic based horseman who won a silver medal in the team jumping competition at the 1996 Olympics. He decided on a one-mile grass race for Barbaro’s debut, and named Jose Caraballo to ride. As the lone first-time starter in the 11-horse field, Barbaro went off at 7.50-1.

Barbaro made that price look like a bargain. He got a great trip rating off the early leader, and as the field rounded the far turn, Caraballo asked Barbaro to run. The colt responded powerfully. He crossed the wire 8 ½ lengths in front, going the distance in 1:35.87 while paying $17 to win. John Curran noted in his race call, “he could be a nice one”, and that prediction soon proved to be correct.

After Barbaro won two more stakes on grass, Matz switched him to dirt, where he won the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby. Then, Barbaro turned in a memorable performance in the 2006 Kentucky Derby, crushing the field by 6 ½ lengths. Sadly, his career ended one race later, when he fractured three bones in his right hind leg soon after the start of the Preakness Stakes. Although he fought hard in recovery, and against subsequent laminitis, medical complications resulted in his being euthanized in January 2007. Barbaro is honored with a statue at the entrance of Churchill Downs.

1. Barbaro $17.00 $8.20 $7.80
2. Jade’s Revenge $12.40 $6.40
3. Anasazi Moon  $18.40

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