10/18/2007 12:00AM

Barber out to be second to none

EmailSAN MATEO, Calif. - Barber is the unluckiest horse in trainer Art Sherman's barn.

Barber will try to shake that tag Saturday when he meets seven rivals in the $60,000 Bay Meadows Speed Handicap at six furlongs.

Barber has 5 wins in 14 career starts, but he also has five second-place finishes, which illustrate the close-but-no-cigar aspect of his career.

"He's just underneath the top sprinters," Sherman said. "At any given time, when he's right and gets the right trip, he can run with anyone, and he doesn't ever give up."

Last year as a 3-year-old, Barber defeated Smokey Stover, who will be a strong contender in next Saturday's Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Four of his five runner-up finishes have come in stakes races.

At 2, he lost to Cause to Believe, a graded stakes winner who went to the Kentucky Derby the next year. He lost to Frisco Star twice, once by 1 1/4 lengths and once by a head. He lost to the multiple stakes winner Corazondelcampeon by 2 3/4 lengths as a 3-year-old and to Trickey Trevor, a Grade 2 stakes winner, by one length this year. In most of those losses he held the lead in the stretch.

Barber finally notched his first stakes win this year, defeating Scottsbluff by a neck in the Green Flash Handicap on the turf at Del Mar on Aug 15.

"It sure was sweet," Sherman said. "He was a bridesmaid for a long time."

Barber faded in his last start, going down the hill at Santa Anita in the Blue Jay Way on Sept. 30, but Sherman said the 4-year-old gelding hesitated before crossing the main track on that quirky turf course.

"He likes the dirt," Sherman said. "We're coming back a little quickly. He likes to be fresh, but we have only galloped him since getting him back at Bay Meadows 10 days ago. There aren't too many opportunities for him, so we have to take advantage when we get one."

Sherman is surprised at how tough the race came up.

Tontine Too, who won his first three starts, including one race at Bay Meadows, will be making his second start following a layoff. He ran third in the Premier Breeders' Cup Handicap at Zia Park Sept. 23.

Wind Water and Ten Downing Street, separated by only a neck in the Sept. 23 Governor's Cup at Fairplex, are also entered, as are

3-year-old stakes winners Another Kris and Immigration.