05/23/2006 11:00PM

Bernardini to pass

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Bernardini's Preakness score (above) came after he won the Withers. He will now be pointed for stakes this summer.

Bernardini, the powerful winner of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, will bypass the June 10 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, meaning the final leg of the Triple Crown will not have the winner of either the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness.

Bernardini won the Preakness by 5 1/4 lengths for his third victory in only four starts. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 113. After the race, his connections intimated that he would skip the 1 1/2-mile Belmont in order to shoot for races this summer. Wednesday's announcement by Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable, which bred and owns Bernardini, made it official.

"Bernardini has had three quick races in succession, and Sheikh Mohammed feels that the colt deserves a break before his next target, which will be determined in due course," said Jimmy Bell, the president of Darley USA, who had received word earlier in the day of the decision from John Ferguson, Darley's bloodstock adviser.

"Given the fact that Bernardini only broke his maiden in March and won a Grade 1 race in May, we feel that he climbed the ladder of competition quite quickly. Having said that, we believe he deserves a break."

This will be the first time since 2000 that the Belmont will not have the winner of the Derby or Preakness. That year, Fusaichi Pegasus won the Derby, but then was upset by Red Bullet in the Preakness. Both skipped the Belmont, which was won by Commendable, who had finished 17th in the Derby and then bypassed the Preakness.

Barbaro won the Derby this year, but then suffered career-ending injuries in the Preakness. Bernardini did not run in the Derby.

Bernardini, a son of A.P. Indy, lost the first start of his career in January at Gulfstream Park. He returned in March at Gulfstream to defeat maidens, then stepped immediately into stakes competition and captured the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on April 29. That convinced Sheikh Mohammed, trainer Tom Albertrani, Bell, and Ferguson to try the nation's best 3-year-olds in the Preakness.

Bell said that Bernardini's next major objective would be summer stakes such as the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29, the Haskell at Monmouth on Aug. 6, or the Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 26. The main year-end goal is the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.

The Belmont field could increase with the absence of Bernardini. Those already committed to the race include Bluegrass Cat and Steppenwolfer, who finished second and third behind Barbaro in the Derby and then bypassed the Preakness.

Jazil, who finished in a dead heat for fourth in the Derby, is also expected, as is Hemingway's Key, who was third in the Preakness.

Others expected to run in the Belmont include Sunriver, who captured the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on Saturday, and Bob and John, who won the Wood Memorial in April and then was 17th in the Derby.

Bob Baffert said jockey Garrett Gomez would ride Bob and John in the Belmont. Bob and John is at Santa Anita, and will not be sent to New York until June 7, Baffert said.

Albertrani is still expected to have a representative in the Belmont with Deputy Glitters, who was eighth in the Derby. He is owned by Joe Lacombe.