12/30/2005 12:00AM

Big test for unbeaten Barbaro

Email

MIAMI - Yankee Master came to Calder last month undefeated and seemingly unbeatable, but could not quite live up to expectations, finishing second as the odds-on favorite in the Kris S. Stakes. Sunday, Barbaro will find himself in a similar position when he puts his unblemished record on the line in the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby, where his stiffest challenge is likely to come from Yankee Master.

The 1 1/8-mile Tropical Park Derby, traditionally the nation's first graded stakes of the new year, drew a full field of 12 3-year-olds and will share top billing on New Year's Day along with its filly counterpart, the Tropical Park Oaks.

, a son of Dynaformer, won his career debut by 8 1/2 lengths at Delaware Park and then was equally dominant when he captured the Laurel Futurity by eight widening lengths seven weeks later. Barbaro earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance at Laurel.

"He showed ability from day one," said Michael Matz, who trains Barbaro for the Lael Stables. "The timing of this race fits his schedule well, but we definitely plan to try him on dirt once we get to Gulfstream."

Edgar Prado will be aboard Barbaro for the first time in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby.

also won his first two starts in one-sided fashion, including Keeneland's Bourbon County Stakes by five lengths over Wedding Singer. He appeared on his way to victory as the 3-5 favorite in the Kris S. after overtaking the pacesetting Mr. Silver in midstretch, but lost momentum when he drifted suddenly approaching the wire and could not recover in time to fend off the final surge of Up an Octave.

Trainer Linda Rice will give Rafael Bejarano a return call on Yankee Master.

Wedding Singer has been his own worst enemy, breaking slowly or awkwardly in each of his five starts. The stretch-running Wedding Singer finished third in Woodbine's Summer Stakes and second behind Yankee Master in the Bourbon County. As the 2-1 favorite in the Laurel Futurity, he raced wide and greenly after again having trouble at the break and finished sixth, 11 1/2 lengths behind Barbaro.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will put blinkers on Wedding Singer for the first time on Sunday.

, who suffered his first loss in three starts on grass when a tiring third in the Kris S., should again prove the one to catch in a field that also includes stakes winner Lewis Michael.