05/12/2006 12:00AM

A matchup worth dreaming about


NEW YORK - There were signs in the sun and stars on May 6, 2006, and they were all aligned above the name of Jackson.

To put what Roy and Gretchen Jackson achieved last Saturday at Newmarket and Churchill Downs into perspective it is necessary to invent newly minted superlatives that are not currently found in any English dictionary, either in America or Britain.

To have bred the winner of any classic horse race is a matter of great pride. To have bred the winners of both the 2000 Guineas and the Kentucky Derby in the same year, and on the same day no less, defies belief. While luck was certainly involved, theirs is a luck inspired by skill. The Jacksons' ability to pair the proper broodmare to the proper stallion to produce George Washington and Barbaro has earned them a place in the mythical Breeders Hall of Fame. That they should also be the owners of Barbaro only adds to the Cheshire-like grins that must certainly keep popping up on their faces as they look back on that famous day.

And what a day it was, one unlike any that ever came before, and unlike one that will ever come again. For not only did George Washington and Barbaro win their respective classics, they won them with supreme authority. Neither race was in doubt much past the quarter pole as they drew clear in above-average fields in both cases. Among the 13 colts George Washington vanquished in the 2000 Guineas were eight different stakes winners of three Group 1's, five Group 2's, and five Group 3's. In the Derby, Barbaro defeated 12 stakes winners of four Grade 1's, 11 Grade 2's, and six Grade 3's.

It would be nice if the paths of George Washington and Barbaro could cross at some time in the future, but that dream is unlikely to come true, despite the idea that Barbaro, a Grade 3 winner on turf, might be as good on that surface as he is on dirt. Aidan O'Brien has already ruled out a try at the 1 1/2 miles of the Epsom Derby for George Washington, explaining that he wasn't sure that the Danehill colt would even stay a mile before the Guineas, so that trying him at Epsom wouldn't be fair. Out of the Alysheba mare Bordighera, he is a half-brother to Grandera, winner of two Group 1 races at 1 1/4 miles, the Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes. It is therefore reasonable to expect that O'Brien will sooner or later try him at 10 furlongs.

George Washington is likely to run next in the one-mile Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh on May 27, but his main early-season goal appears to be the one-mile St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 20. He has been nominated to the 1 1/4-mile Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park on July 8, but if he goes at Ascot, that race might come up too soon.

We can certainly hope to see George Washington at Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup, most likely the Mile. And with Michael Matz having wisely ruled out a shot at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, or any other European race this year, for Barbaro, the best possible scenario for a meeting between George Washington and Barbaro would be in the BC Classic. O'Brien has had six runners in the Classic since 2000. With Coolmore's penchant for trying top-class turf performers on dirt in an effort to increase their stud value, a BC Classic with George Washington is not as far-fetched as it may seem.

If Barbaro continues to sweep all before him on dirt, the Jacksons will certainly begin to think about improving his stud prospects through a Group 1 or Grade 1 victory on turf. As all of the best such races outside of the BC Turf and Mile and the Arlington Million are run in Europe, it is not surprising that they have already mentioned the Arc as a possibility.

That day would come no sooner than Oct. 3, 2007, when Barbaro is a 4-year-old, but the road to next year's Arc is a long and winding one. No American-trained horse has made that trip since Billy Wright sent El Senor to finish 11th at Longchamp in 1990. A smart option might be to send Barbaro to Europe for his entire 4-year-old campaign, perhaps to Andre Fabre, the French master who has an aptitude with 4-year-old imports from foreign countries. Witness Shirocco, the 2004 German Derby winner for Andreas Schutz who improved under Fabre the following year to win the BC Turf.

All of this is speculation, of course, but with horses like Barbaro and George Washington to speculate about, one can't help musing over their rosy futures.