05/15/2008 12:00AM

Field looks wide open in Barbaro

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The drama that surrounded last year's inaugural running of the Barbaro Stakes at Pimlico, in which the Michael Matz-trained Chelokee won an emotional running of the race, is absent from this year's race. Just seven 3-year-olds, none of whom have won anything more than a first-level allowance race, are in the 1 1/16-mile Barbaro, which this year is more a glorified allowance race than a stakes.

The money, though, will spend just the same to whoever can claim the first prize of the $100,000 race Saturday. It is a wide-open race, with horses dropping back down after finding graded stakes company too challenging, and horses stepping up seeking to get to the next level.

Spurrier, from Todd Pletcher's barn, won two straight going long on the inner dirt course at Aqueduct before a sixth-place finish in the Wood Memorial. Garrett Gomez, last year's Eclipse Award-winning jockey, takes over as his rider.

Roman Emperor was seventh in the Wood after finishing fourth in the Gotham. And the Nick Zito-trained Da' Tara tries softer company after finishing fifth in the Derby Trial and ninth in the Florida Derby.

If those three have peaked, the likes of M J's Enchanteur, Midnite Communion, and Wesley are on the rise.

M J's Enchanteur got loose on the lead and scored a sharp win in a first-level allowance race at Delaware two weeks ago.

The long-winded, improving Midnite Communion, who has raced around two turns in 5 of his 6 starts, comes off consecutive victories, most recently in a first-level allowance race at Pimlico on April 24.

Wesley defeated maidens at Aqueduct in his first try around two turns last time out.

The longest shot should be Red Sandy, whose only win was against maidens at Oaklawn, his lone in-the-money finish in six starts.