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Matz Returns For Race Named After Derby Winner

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ELKTON, Md. (AP) _ Michael Matz was looking at an album full of Barbaro photos when the trainer's pony nuzzled up alongside to check things out.

``That's your buddy,'' Matz said, smiling at his longtime pony, Messaging, before accompanying another set of horses from the stable to their Tuesday morning gallop.

It's been nearly a year since the Kentucky Derby winner broke down in the Preakness, but fans of Barbaro still visit Matz at Fair Hill Training Center. It's where Barbaro spent many of his days before races, and where Matz carries on, training his horses and hoping another champion comes along.

His top 3-year-old is a colt named Chelokee, who missed the Kentucky Derby and won't run in Saturday's Preakness. However, Chelokee will run in the renamed Barbaro Stakes, the ninth race on the Preakness day program.

``It would be an honor to win a race named after a horse I trained,'' Matz said of his colt who finished third in the Florida Derby.

Barbaro was unbeaten in six starts before shattering his right hind leg at the start of the Preakness. By mid-July, the painful disease laminitis struck and when it became impossible to control, Barbaro was euthanized on Jan. 29.

Matz has managed to push forward, winning the Breeders' Cup Distaff with Round Pond and nearly having another Derby shot with Chelokee, who will ``take on the big guns later this year,'' promises Peter Brette, Matz's assistant.

The 56-year-old Matz still thinks about Barbaro, a lot.

``When you lose something close to you it's very difficult,'' Matz said. ``I'd been with him just about every day ever since we received the horse _ now that would be two years ago. It was a long year with him trying to recover and it just didn't work.''

Matz wraps himself in his work so he doesn't have too much time to think about the past.

``The more you stay busy and go on, you don't think about it as much,'' he said. ``When things are quiet, you look back and say `Well, what if I had him in the Breeders' Cup or to compete over in Europe? How good was this horse? That's the question nobody will ever be able to answer.''

While Matz will try to win the Barbaro Stakes _ formerly the Sir Barton Stakes _ current Derby winner Street Sense will attempt to take the Preakness and set up a Triple Crown shot at the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

The sensational colt trained by Carl Nafzger put in a final tuneup Tuesday at Churchill Downs, breezing five furlongs in 1:00 with regular rider Calvin Borel aboard.

Street Sense was scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday.

``The horse worked perfect,'' Nafzger said. ``It was a little faster than we wanted, but he was very comfortable and did it well. He did it without any effort. He wasn't trying to work; that's his gait.''

Street Sense will likely face eight rivals in his bid to become the seventh Derby-Preakness winner in the past 11 years.

Among the challengers are Circular Quay and King of the Roxy, a pair of colts trained by Todd Pletcher.

Pimlico officials listed Circular Quay as a starter after the colt's owners, Michael and Doreen Tabor, and bloodstock agent Demi O'Byrne made arrangements to attend the race.

Circular Quay, expected to be ridden by John Velazquez, becomes the fourth Derby horse in the field. The others are runner-up Hard Spun and third-place finisher Curlin.

The rest of the field includes C P West, Flying First Class, Mint Slewlep and Xchanger.

After winning the Louisiana Derby, Circular Quay came into the Kentucky Derby off an eight-week layoff. The colt was well back early in the 1 1/4-mile Derby, was bumped slightly by Stormello leaving the five-sixteenths pole and improved from 13th to sixth in the final quarter-mile.

King of Roxy, who skipped the Derby after finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby, was expected to be ridden by Garrett Gomez, the jockey's agent said.

``I'm assuming it is King of the Roxy because we worked him over the weekend, but I haven't been given the final word,'' agent Ron Anderson said.

Pletcher, a three-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's top trainer, is 0-for-26 in Triple Crown races. He sent out a record-tying five horses in the Derby and fell to 0-for-19 in America's greatest race. His only Preakness starter was Impeachment, who finished third in 2000. He's 0-for-6 in the Belmont Stakes.
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