05/17/2008 12:00AM

Buy the Barrel powers home in duPont


BALTIMORE - Larry Jones and Gabriel Saez were participants in some somber discussions as the 133rd Preakness neared Saturday. As the trainer and jockey of the Kentucky Derby runner-up Eight Belles, Jones and Saez had talked at length about the fatal misfortune that befell the filly.

But an hour or so before the Preakness at Pimlico, after teaming with Buy the Barrel to capture the Grade 2 Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes, Jones and Saez got a welcome timeout from the Eight Belles controversy. Buy the Barrel rallied from just off the pace and pulled away to a 2 1/2-length victory Saturday in the 17th running of the $150,000 duPont for fillies and mares.

Lexi Star was up in the final jump to get second by a nose over Bear Now, the front-runner and 5-2 favorite in a field of eight.

Buy the Barrel, a chestnut filly by E Dubai, was bred and is owned by the Hinkle Farms. She returned $8 to win as second choice after finishing 1o1/16 miles in 1:42.43 over a fast track.

"It's very special to win on a big day of racing, especially to be paired back up with Gabriel," said Jones, who the day before the Derby won the Kentucky Oaks with the Saez-ridden Proud Spell. "It's bittersweet for us. It's good to be back on the winning side, and everything worked out the way it's supposed to."

"It's very exciting to win a race like this," said Saez. "This is right up there behind the Oaks."

Buy the Barrel was coming off an impressive triumph in the Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The duPont victory, worth $90,000, was the richest of her career, which now includes 7 wins from 16 starts.

Bear Now, ridden by Jamie Theriot, cut out the pace with Silver Knockers pursuing closest. Down the stretch, while Silver Knockers began to fade, Buy the Barrel surged to the lead from the outside, striding out to put the issue to rest.

"She responded real good, obviously," said Saez.

After Bear Now, the order of finish was Peach Flambe, Cash's Girl, Silver Knockers, Altesse, and Runway Rosie. Wow Me Free was scratched.