Barbaro's newborn brother long on legs and spunk
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Not even 2 weeks old, the foal -- a full brother to one of America's most beloved race horses -- knows exactly what to do when released into the oval-shaped exercise pen.
The long-legged baby horse immediately starts sprinting when the gate is closed, leaving mother La Ville Rouge in the dust. He doesn't dart across the pen but cruises around its fenced edge, making one left turn and then another.
It's a similar route, albeit a far shorter distance, as the one 3-year-old colts will navigate Saturday in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Last year, that's where the foal's brother, Barbaro, sprinted to victory two weeks before he shattered bones in his right hind leg during the Preakness Stakes. He was euthanized Jan. 29 after a long struggle for survival.
"For a little guy, he's pretty independent," said Bayne Welker, director of sales at Mill Ridge Farm, where the champion's mother and two full brothers live. "A lot of foals at this age would be right there with the mare. He's off by himself, not worrying about her."
Owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson have twice visited the foal, born April 20 at the farm. Gretchen Jackson says she sees plenty of Barbaro in the baby, both in appearance (they have similar star markings on their foreheads) and spirit.
As mother and child posed for one of numerous photo opportunities the last few days, the foal kicked La Ville Rouge in the stomach with his hind legs. Mom barely flinched.
"She's a great mother," Welker said. "She puts up with a lot of crap."
Welker says the foal has the two ingredients sought at this age: health and spunk. The Jacksons are particularly impressed by the latter.
"He looks like he has good self-esteem," Gretchen Jackson said. "He doesn't look timid. He looks like he's sure of himself. I can't keep my hands off of those little babies. He wasn't timid about me doing that. Some foals will jump when you touch them. He wasn't too sensitive."
While the latest Barbaro brother doesn't yet have a name, the Jacksons acknowledge they'll likely be turning to an old family lithograph to produce one. The picture features six foxhounds -- one named Barbaro, another Nicanor, the name given to the Derby winner's yearling brother, housed in a nearby barn at Mill Ridge.
Roy Jackson says he's closely guarding the names of the other hounds in the picture because they will likely be used to complete Barbaro's family tree.
On Sunday, stallion Dynaformer and La Ville Rouge mated for the fourth time, and Gretchen Jackson says she's hoping it will produce Barbaro's first filly sibling to continue the lineage. And there could be even more family members after that one is born, she said.
"Dynaformer is getting older," she said. "We've always loved Dynaformer. We'll probably keep going."
For now, the Jacksons plan to send Nicanor -- and likely his younger brother -- on a similar course as Barbaro. That means Nicanor will head to Florida in September or October to get accustomed to a racetrack. If all goes well, Derby-winning trainer Michael Matz could teach him to race next year as a 2-year-old.
Although it's difficult to project a horse's racing success, even with such a successful brother, the newest foal projects to be taller than both Barbaro and Nicanor, Welker said. In fact, his legs are so long, he had trouble reaching the ground while trying to graze.
Roy Jackson says he's confident he'll grow into the body of a racehorse.
"For a young foal, he's very nice and has a lot of substance," he said. "I couldn't be more pleased."
On the Net:
Mill Ridge Farm: http://www.millridge.com/
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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