05/18/2007 11:00PM

Chelokee and Matz take Barbaro Stakes

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BALTIMORE - Michael Matz had run horses at Pimlico since last year's Preakness Stakes, but not until Saturday had he actually set foot in the place since Barbaro's tragic injury.

"It didn't present itself for me to come back," Matz said.

The occasion to return proved a far happier one, because Matz sent out heavily favored Chelokee to a popular victory in the first running of the $100,000 Barbaro Stakes.

In the winner's circle, Matz was presented with a trophy by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, the owners of Barbaro, fulfilling a scene that was rudely, grimly interrupted last year.

Matz hugged the Jacksons, then minutes later acknowledged that winning the first running of a stake named for his 2006 Kentucky Derby winner was satisfying.

"This is pretty big for me, to have had a horse like Barbaro," he said as his eyes began to well with tears.

Chelokee ($2.60) was a sentimental favorite, and with the scratch of Soaring By, which reduced the field to five, he was a overwhelming choice in the betting, too. Under jockey Ramon Dominguez, Chelokee sat second for the first half-mile of the race, then surged past pacesetter Stonehouse as the field neared the far turn.

Chelokee was asked aggressively on the far turn by Dominguez, who hit the colt several times left-handed before switching to a right-handed stick at the top of the stretch. By then, Chelokee was comfortably in front, and he galloped home 4 3/4 lengths the best in 1:43.44 for 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track.

Silver Express finished second, 3 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Zephyr Cat.

Matz was followed by cameras, both still and video, as he entered a dangerously cramped and crowded winner's circle. Asked if he felt like a fish in a fishbowl, he said, "I feel like a big fish right now."

"I couldn't be any happier," Matz said.

Chelokee, owned by the Centennial Farms partnership headed by Don Little, has now won 3 times in 7 starts. He had finished third in the Florida Derby in his most recent start.

Street Magician gets rail-skimming win

Street Magician showed a new dimension and a lot of guts winning the Grade 3, $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs by one length at Pimlico.

Having raced on or near the lead in each of his first four starts, Street Magician, under Rafael Bejarano, was 7 1/2 lengths off the pace after an opening half-mile run by Southwestern Heat in 45.17 seconds.

Street Magician moved into third at the quarter pole, but Southwestern Heat was still five-lengths in front at the eighth pole. Southwestern Heat, under Eric Camacho, began to drift out at that point and Bejarano took his horse to the inside.

As Street Magician was trying to come up the fence, Southwestern Heat came over on him, forcing Street Magician to steady and brush with the rail. Southwestern Heat drifted back out and Street Magician regrouped and continued his rally to get the win.

"When [Southwestern Heat] came in again I was in my spot on the rail," Bejarano said. "He feel a little intimidated when he saw the other horse come back in, but he ran good. He's a nice colt."

Southwestern Heat held second, by 2 1/2 lengths over Hobbitontherocks. Heart Throbbin', Like Mom Like Sons, Finallymadeit, and Stormin Baghdad completed the order of finish.

Street Magician, owned by Larry Johnson and trained by Michael Trombetta, covered the six furlongs in 1:10.91 and returned $5.60 as the favorite. It was the third victory in five starts for Street Magician, a son of Street Cry who is also the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

Trombetta said he was surprised to see his horse that far back early, but was happy that he could win in that manner.

"You love to see these horses be versatile," Trombetta said. "I knew [Southwestern Heat] was going to set a pretty good pace, I didn't expect him to shake the whole field like he did. It was nice he came back to us that we could get there in time."

Trombetta said that he would consider running Street Magician back in the Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens at seven furlongs at Belmont Park on June 9.

- additional reporting by David Grening