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Smaller Field Lines Up for Saturday's Preakness Stakes

The second jewel of U.S. horse racing's Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland. After winning the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, "Barbaro" could come one step closer to winning the title no horse has captured since 1978.

Two weeks ago, at Churchill Downs, the maximum 20 horses lined up for the Kentucky Derby. Long-shot "Barbaro" muscled his way through the massive field, and won by 6.5 lengths. The Pennsylvania-bred colt has not lost in six starts.

The son of Dynaformer is only the ninth horse to win the Laurel Futurity, Maryland's top two-year-old race, and then capture the first leg of the Triple Crown that features three-year-old horses. His trainer, Michael Matz, says Barbaro surprised even him with the way he ran away from the field.

"I guess what surprised me most was the fact of the ease that he did it with," he said. "You always hope [for] that to happen as a trainer, but I would have been just as happy if he had won by a nose. But I thought that was to his credit, a terrific performance."

While Barbaro will be contending in a smaller nine-horse field on Saturday, he will have to watch out for "Brother Derek," who tied for fourth at Churchill Downs. Brother Derek fell from fourth to 16th at the top of the stretch in Kentucky, but fought back to finish well. Brother Derek's trainer, Dan Hendricks, says his mount should give Barbaro a run for his money at the Preakness Stakes.

"I am just hoping that, with a clean trip, I can outrun him," he explained. "If I can outrun him, I am top three-year-old again. If I can't, I hope that he wins the Triple Crown by more lengths every time."

Veteran trainer Nick Zito did not have a horse in the Kentucky Derby, but will enter "Hemingway's Key" in Saturday's shorter contest. Hemingway's Key won his first two starts, but has lost his last four in graded stakes company. Last year's Preakness winning jockey, Jeremy Rose, will ride Hemingway's Key.

The Preakness is 100 meters shorter than the Kentucky Derby, covering 1.91 kilometers at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland. The third and longest race of the Triple Crown, the 2.41 kilometer long Belmont Stakes, is in three weeks in New York. No horse has captured all three races since "Affirmed" in 1978.