05/20/2006 12:00AM

Bernardini camp happy yet sad


BALTIMORE - Oblivious to the injury that befell Barbaro down the Pimlico stretch the first time, jockey Javier Castellano rode Bernardini as if nothing unusual had occurred in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. And although the sadness that enveloped Pimlico because of Barbaro's hind-leg injury was palpable, Castellano and the other connections of Bernardini still did their best to gracefully savor their first victory in a Triple Crown event.

Castellano, a 28-year-old native of Venezuela, said he "saw a horse standing right in the middle of the track" after he crossed the wire a winner. "I was really excited for me and my group, but at the same time, when I saw the horse, it is really, really sad."

Bernardini, who was making just his fourth career start in the 131st Preakness, is a Darley Stable homebred trained by Tom Albertrani. Darley, one of the stables owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has long been prominent in major races in Europe and North America. Albertrani, a former longtime assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, worked in Dubai for eight years, beginning in 1995, for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing empire. Darley is an offshoot of Godolphin.

Albertrani, a 48-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was cognizant of Barbaro's injury as he watched the race unfold. Even as Bernardini crossed the wire easily in front, Albertrani showed little emotion, although he did smile when accepting congratulations from several friends standing nearby.

John Ferguson, racing manager for Darley, echoed the sentiments of virtually everyone in attendance when talking about the Preakness on the infield victory stand.

"First of all, we want to say how sorry we feel for Barbaro and his connections," he said. "Having said that, Bernardini was spectacular today."

Meanwhile, as many as eight 3-year-olds who did not race in the Preakness are expected to challenge Bernardini in the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, the June 10 Belmont Stakes. Among those under consideration are Sunriver, Lewis Michael, Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer, Point Determined, Bob and John, High Cotton, and Jazil.

This will be the second straight Belmont, but just the fourth in the last 10 years, in which a Triple Crown will not be on the line.