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Triple Crown?

Author: Lynda Collins

It happens every spring.

The Kentucky Derby delivers a winner and the world immediately speculates on whether the horse can become a Triple Crown champion.

Barbaro, undefeated in six outings and a 6 1/2-length winner over Bluegrass Cat at Louisville, is the current focus of attention.

Las Vegas and offshore race books have no Preakness futures, but are offering propositions on the race as well as whether Barbaro will win the Triple Crown.

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One Hilton prop asks if the colt will sweep racing's trio of 3-year-old showdowns.

"Yes" is plus $2.10 and "No" minus $2.50.

Costa Rican-based BoDog.com's numbers Friday were plus $2.05 and minus $3.10.

The offshore Internet book also asks if Barbaro will win the Preakness.

"Yes" is minus $1.30 and "No" minus $1.10.

Barbaro (minus $2.00) is matched against Brother Derek (plus $1.50) in another.

Yet another BoDog prop asks if a non-Derby starter will win the Preakness.

"Yes" is plus $5.00.

I'm still young enough to remember the late, great Secretariat, Seattle Slew and wunderkind Stevie Cauthen aboard Affirmed pull the hat trick in the late '70s, but it unarguably has been a long time -- almost three decades.

I can recall many Triple Crown near-misses and quite a few in recent years.

Most threats have been thwarted in the grueling Belmont Stakes, third leg of the Triple Crown at a distance of 1 1/2 miles.

One can click them off almost like clockwork: Smarty Jones, Funny Cide, War Emblem, Point Given, Charismatic, Real Quiet, Silver Charm ...

Afleet Alex also claimed two legs last year -- the last two -- losing the Run for the Roses to Giacomo and then taking the Preakness and Belmont, a feat previously most recently achieved by Point Given in 2001.

Thunder Gulch in 1995 won the Derby and Belmont, but lost the 1 3/16th-mile Preakness to Louis Quatorze while finishing third.

This season's Preakness field will be much smaller than the Kentucky Derby's 20.

Fourteen entrants is the maximum and indications are only about eight will run.

Lawyer Ron, winner of six straight before a poor Derby performance, was yanked from the potential roster with an injury.

A few other Run for the Roses hopefuls that fizzled rather than sizzled will try to catch Barbaro at Pimlico, including morning-line favorite Brother Derek, race favorite Sweetnorthernsaint and trainer Bob Baffert's Bob and John, the Wood Memorial champ.

Withers winner Bernardini, Gotham champion Like Now and Nick Zito's Hemingway's Key are among others expected to run. Barbaro raced only once in 13 weeks prior to the Derby and came back after a five-week layoff in winning at Louisville. This time he'll return to the track after two weeks R&R.

That brings us back to the original question: Can Barbaro finally give Thoroughbred racing another Triple Crown winner?

The Sam's Town crew seems to think so.

"It sure looks like he's going to win again," race book manager Jack Schneider said, speaking also for the resort's three handicappers: Gordon Jones, Patrick McQuiggan and Tony Vega.

"He's a MONSTER.

"I'm hearing better than Secretariat."

Hold off on the coronation, however.

Eric Viggio, a Stardust race and sports supervisor, isn't ready to throw a blanket of black-eyed Susans on Barbaro just yet.

"I've got a feeling Brother Derek will win," Viggio said.

"I like him a lot. We'll see."


About the author:
Lynda Collins is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of her articles at www.procappers .com/Lynda_Collins.htm