01/13/2009 12:00AM

Barbaro brother 'coming into himself'

Mike Mullaney/Gulfstream
Peter Brette, assistant to trainer Michael Matz, rides the 3-year-old Nicanor as the colt prepares for his racing debut.

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - He fills his big brother's old space, Stall 4 in Barn 7 at the Palm Meadows training center. But Nicanor, an unraced 3-year-old, obviously has a long way to go to fill his big brother's shoes.

Nicanor is by Dynaformer out of the Carson City mare La Ville Rouge, making him a full brother to the legendary Barbaro. His connections are the same: Roy and Gretchen Jackson will race the colt in their Lael Stable silks, and Michael Matz trains him.

Nicanor has been in training since April, save a spell in late summer and early fall when Matz said the colt "was just growing too much." During his time on the track at Fair Hill in Maryland and at Palm Meadows, Nicanor has shown glimpses of promise, and it won't be long until the colt makes his career debut in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park.

"It'll be the end of the month, maybe early February," said Matz.

Nicanor is grand-looking, standing nearly 17 hands, which has been a primary reason that Matz has taken his time with him. Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner whose legacy was sealed by the eight-month fight for his life following his breakdown in the Preakness, was more precocious, owning a 3-for-3 record at this stage of his career, including wins in the Laurel Futurity and Tropical Park Derby.

Nicanor, said Matz, "is a really nice colt, I think. Can he do some of the things his brother did? Obviously that would be asking a lot. But yeah, I'm very, very happy to have him in the barn."

Nicanor will be the third foal to race from La Ville Rouge. Holy Ground, a 7-year-old by Saint Ballado, was a minor stakes winner before retiring late in his 3-year-old season after nine starts. Barbaro, euthanized nearly two years ago, would have been 6 this year. A 5-year-old horse from the mare - Man in Havana, by Quiet American - has never raced.

Nicanor shows a steady workout pattern since early December, with his latest Palm Meadows workout coming Sunday, a five-furlong dirt move in 1:01.35, handily. Matz said he is undecided about whether to start off the colt on dirt or turf. As was the case with Barbaro, his pedigree suggests he might fare better on grass, but Barbaro, by winning the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby, clearly demonstrated that he could excel on either surface.

Nicanor "has just now started coming into himself the last month or so," said Matz. "He's started acting like he really wants to do it. He's become more aggressive, more competitive. He's actually doing quite well, so naturally we're looking forward to getting him to the races one day soon."

Karelian still feeling effects of last race

Karelian came out of his dead-heat victory in the Nov. 22 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in November "a little banged up" and therefore had to skip the Fort Lauderdale Handicap here last weekend, according to trainer Rusty Arnold.

Karelian, 7, "is pretty tough on himself," said Arnold. "I'm hoping to run him once down here before we head back to Keeneland."

The Fort Lauderdale wound up a scramble, with just one length separating the top six finishers. Kiss the Kid won by a neck over Society's Chairman.

Four six-figure stakes this weekend

Four $100,000 stakes are on tap for the coming weekend at Gulfstream.

On Saturday, the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap, for older sprinters, will share the spotlight with the Dania Beach Stakes, for 3-year-old turfers at one mile.

On Sunday, the mirror images of those races will be run for the opposite gender, as the Grade 3 First Lady, for filly-mare sprinters, will share top billing with the Sweetest Chant Stakes, for 3-year-old turf fillies at one mile.

Extra weight for longshot

Blue Mon finished seventh of eight starters in the fifth race Saturday at Gulfstream when he was dismissed at 45-1. So what? Well, maybe the gray 9-year-old had a bit of a handicap: He was carrying 129 pounds, seven more than the rest of the field.

Blue Mon was ridden by Adrienne Cox, normally an exercise rider for her boyfriend, Wayne Rice, who owns and trains the gelding. Blue Mon was scheduled to carry 124 pounds, but Cox, a bodybuilder and health proponent, was five pounds overweight.

* Unlike in some prior years, when some of the 1,250 stalls at Palm Meadows went unused, the stable area is filled to the brim this year, according to the facility's stall superintendent, John Hoffman. Palm Meadows, located about an hour north of Gulfstream, is a 304-acre facility that opened in 2003.