Barely 12 hours after Barbaro become just the sixth undefeated Derby winner, Triple Crown talk filled the air. It happens every Sunday after the first Saturday in May, when hopes are high in thoroughbred racing that a superstar has arrived to revive the sport.
“You always want to have a horse you can say can win the Triple Crown,” Matz said. “We think this is a terrific horse with tremendous ability. If I told you I didn't think in the long haul that we'd have a Triple Crown winner I'd be lying to you.”
Matz has been confident about his dark bay colt since the start. After three victories on the turf, Barbaro was moved to the dirt and never flinched. In the Derby, he polished off 19 rivals and won by 6 1/2 lengths - the largest margin since 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault won by eight lengths.
It's been 28 years since Affirmed became the last Triple Crown champion, and if Barbaro wins the Preakness in two weeks it would set the stage for a fourth Triple try in the past five years. The most recent was perhaps the most heartbreaking, when Smarty Jones lost to Birdstone in the final yards of the 2004 Belmont.
Barbaro, now 6-for-6, came out of the Derby in great shape. Exercise rider Peter Brette told the trainer Barbaro was feeing so good “you could enter him again tomorrow.”
“We'll try to keep him at this level for the next two races and hopefully he'll become a famous horse,” Matz said. “All we can do is try our best and hopefully he'll help us out.”
Matz said Barbaro was leaving Churchill Downs later Sunday and would arrive at his home barn in Fair Hill, Md., early Monday after a 12-hour van trip. Pimlico is just 60 miles away.
Barbaro, who gave Edgar Prado his first Derby win, will go against several familiar faces in the 1 3-16-mile Preakness. Brother Derek, who finished in a dead heat for fourth with Jazil, will give it another go, along with beaten favorite Sweetnorthernsaint (seventh) and Lawyer Ron (12th). Jazil is probable.