05/05/2006 11:00PM

Jacksons hit landmark double


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The historic day began in their hotel lobby where Roy and Gretchen Jackson watched on television as George Washington, a horse they bred, won the prestigious 2000 Guineas at Newmarket in England.

"Phew, that was exciting," Gretchen Jackson said a few hours later. "Really exhilarating."

And the day only got better from there.

After making history by being the first owners to bring two undefeated horses to the Kentucky Derby, the Jacksons - who race under the name Lael Stable - got to revel in the moment as Barbaro romped to a 6 1/2-length victory in the 132nd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Barbaro became just the sixth undefeated horse to win the Derby.

Showing Up, the other horse the Jacksons ran in the Derby, finished a respectable sixth in just his fourth career start.

The Jacksons are also the breeders of Barbaro, who became the first horse in 50 years to win the Derby off a five-week layoff. They bred the Derby winner by bringing their mare La Ville Rouge to the stallion Dynaformer. For that, they earned an additional $100,000, through the Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders Incentive Fund. That's in addition to the first-place purse of $1,453,200 they get for winning the race.

"This is just a dream come true for us," Roy Jackson said, holding the Kentucky Derby trophy in the winner's circle. "Everybody dreams about winning the Kentucky Derby. We just feel terribly blessed to be standing here today."

Though the Jacksons were standing side by side in the winner's circle, they walked over from the backstretch separately. Gretchen Jackson, 68, came over with Barbaro, trainer Michael Matz, and his son Alex, who walked over hand in hand.

Roy Jackson, Gretchen's husband of 47 years, walked over with Showing Up - a horse they bought for $60,000 - and his trainer, Barclay Tagg. The Jacksons flipped a coin to decide their fate.

"She got the choice," Roy Jackson, 69, said. "She got to see [Barbaro] run his first race."

For the Jacksons, the day marked the culmination of a 30-year involvement in racing. They increased their commitment to racing in the late 1990's as Roy Jackson was wrapping up a career in baseball management. The Jacksons bought mostly fillies and mares to upgrade their broodmare band.

And on Saturday, in two countries, their investment paid huge dividends.