05/11/2006 11:00PM

Derby win takes it to a higher plane

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Barbaro's Kentucky Derby victory brought his owners "fun and joy."

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Crossing the finish line 6 1/2 lengths ahead of his nearest competition, Barbaro was one of the most dominant Kentucky Derby winners of recent decades. His status as an unbeaten classic winner and his potential on the track and as a stallion have escalated his value into the stratosphere.

As a result of these factors, industry professionals have estimated his current value at around $25 million to $30 million, although that figure is both fluid and certain to change as the brawny bay colt races through the next few months.

Despite the magnitude of that valuation, his owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stable, are setting aside the financial considerations of owning a classic colt to enjoy racing him.

Roy Jackson said: "We have had farms showing some interest in him, but we would like to enjoy this. Sitting down and talking to people about his stud career will take a lot of time, and we want to get beyond these races."

Jackson said that getting too involved in the economic decisions required for planning a stallion career "would take away from the fun and joy of it."

And without a doubt, the Jacksons are taking tremendous pleasure in their current racing fortunes.

In addition to their homebred Barbaro, the Jacksons also bred and sold George Washington, winner of the English 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on the same day as the Kentucky Derby.

In this memorable year, Barbaro's impressive victory at Churchill Downs is the best moment yet.

Roy Jackson said: "I think the Derby win will be sinking in for weeks, maybe months. It will always be with us. I think the thing to do is not to question it, but just to enjoy it. The fact we have been in racing for three decades makes us realize we need to enjoy the good times. If nothing more happened, we would still be ecstatic."

But especially if Barbaro continues winning, the excitement he generates will spread far beyond his owners and immediate fans. And, like such recent classic stars as Smarty Jones and Afleet Alex, Barbaro will become the object of tremendous interest for stallion operations.

Michael Hernon, director of sales at Gainesway Farm, noted that Barbaro's "emphatic win in the Derby establishes him as head and shoulders above his own generation. From an average foal crop of 35,000-plus, only one horse wins the Derby, and Barbaro dominated the race through the crucial stages and stamped himself as potentially the next undefeated Triple Crown winner."

That assessment is important, because breeding farms are not looking to stand good stallions. Rather, they want horses who are totally dominant and capture the imagination, as well as the great prizes of racing.

As an example of this type, Hernon said, "Last year at a crucial stage of the Derby, Afleet Alex found himself racing on the inside, which was generally agreed to be the slowest part of the track, and persevered to be a close third. But he rebounded to score a victory over adversity in the Preakness and then to solidify his position at the head of the 3-year-old crop with a similar performance in the Belmont Stakes when he too" - like Barbaro in the Derby - "stalked the pace and ran past the field with a great level of superiority."

Such displays of superiority are not only significant to Barbaro's future as a stallion but also to the ongoing reception of his sire, Dynaformer, a very successful son of English Derby winner Roberto standing at Three Chimneys Farm.

Dan Rosenberg, president of Three Chimneys, said that Barbaro's Derby success should do a couple of things for Dynaformer. First, it should "erase the misconception that Dynaformer is a turf sire, and as much as it is true that he's a great turf sire, he's never been strictly that. The Derby should close that discussion. Dynaformer is a tremendously versatile sire of racehorses on dirt and turf.

"The other thing we've seen with some other outstanding sires of athletes is that some are not great sales stallions, and although Dynaformer's sales averages have improved over the years, I would love see him get the respect he deserves in the sales ring."

Dynaformer has certainly earned the respect of breeders who race their own stock, as he has an exceptionally high proportion of offspring who race and win, and the quality of their victories has pushed his stud fee into six figures.

And although nothing beats a Kentucky Derby winner for attracting attention to a stallion, Dynaformer's book was "already outstanding," Rosenberg said.

If Barbaro maintains his Kentucky Derby form through the next several months, the sky is the limit for him and his sire, because, Rosenberg said, "the manner in which Barbaro won, added to outstanding conformation and a truly fascinating pedigree" give Barbaro "all the characteristics of an outstanding stallion prospect."

Rosenberg and Hernon know the qualities that attract breeders because they are in the front lines with farms that stand classic-winning colts Smarty Jones (Three Chimneys) and Afleet Alex (Gainesway).

The eminent regard for those young horses as stallion prospects grew out of their performances in the classics.

As they and Barbaro have shown, the gifts of the supremely talented colts of each crop are a combination of speed and stamina that play out on finely manicured brown ovals.

Millions of people watch and cheer, and a few stand in awe as the spotlight shines on their grand racehorse.

Headley Bell, bloodstock adviser to the Jacksons, said they "have a passion for the sport, and they know that this is a different situation. This is a special horse. We all believed it beforehand, but we saw it on Saturday, and that's not going to go away."