Saturday, February 23, 2008

Barbaro junior

Two years ago, the racing world was awed by the tragic drama of Barbaro, the dominant thoroughbred who won the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby by 6½ lengths and broke down two weeks later, soon after the start of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, never to recover. Never to breed.
For one shining moment, the we all watched greatness roamed the track. And then he was gone.
But that is not quite the end of the story. These days, another horse is getting attention, even though he is more than a year away from competing in the Triple Crown.
His name is Nicanor a 2 year old, the son of the sire Dynaformer and the dam La Ville Rouge -- Barbaro's parents. That makes Nicanor Barbaro's full brother, and by definition, it makes him a horse to watch.
"I think the whole world has hopes for Nicanor," said Bayne Welker of Mill Ridge Farm. "This guy is going to have some huge expectations riding on him."
On a trip to the farm it's clear that no other horse is getting quite as much attention as Nicanor. There may well be a future Triple Crown winner out there in the blue grass pasture, but all eyes are on this one horse.
"I think he's ticketed to be a race horse," said Welker, who is a mainstay at the farm, supervising the care, feeding and development of foals and yearlings who may one day thrill millions as they pound down the stretch at Churchill Downs, Pimlico or Belmont.
As for Nicanor, there is the undeniable fact that history has not been kind to the siblings of champions. Nobody remembers Secretariat's sister or whether Seattle Slew had a brother. And the folks at Mill Ridge acknowledge that fact.
"It's probably about the same chance of hitting the Powerball twice in your lifetime," said Mike Bell, a farm employee, as he watched the colts gallop over the rolling hills near Lexington.
Barbaro's owner, Gretchen Jackson, also owns Nicanor and has no illusions about the horse's prospects but so far the signs are positive.
"He has the physical attributes. He's a leader among the group in the field. And that's what you want," Belker said.
Nicanor will spent the summer in Kentucky and then was moved in September to Florida, where he will learn to become either a race horse or a pampered flop. In the past year he has almost doubled his weight to about 1,100 pounds and is showing signs of promise.
"These traits are emerging," said Welker, "but we'll never truly know till he breaks from the gate."
Stay tuned. If the plans for Nicanor pan out, you could see him at Churchill Downs in 2009.
But not everything is riding on Nicanor alone -- another brother was born to the family just last month. Farm officials said if anything, this unnamed foal looks even more like Barbaro than Nicanor, and that may raise the hopes and up the ante even more.

The Big G

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