05/17/2008 12:00AM

Roman Emperor battles back in Barbaro


Roman Emperor was so uncomfortable in Pimlico's enclosed saddling paddock on Saturday that his trainer, Steve Klesaris, took the lead shank and walked the colt to try and calm him down. Once Klesaris took Roman Emperor onto the track, the trainer was relieved.

"He just doesn't like enclosed spaces," Klesaris said after he handed off Roman Emperor to the outrider.

The prerace anxiety melted away minutes later. Roman Emperor, given a heads-up ride by jockey Jeremy Rose, wore down Da' Tara and captured the $100,000 Barbaro Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Roman Emperor ($5.20), the favorite, got up to beat Da' Tara by a half-length, with Spurrier 3 1/4 lengths farther back in the field of five. Roman Emperor completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:42.10.

"The race went perfect for us," said Klesaris, who trains Roman Emperor and co-owns him with with Jeff Puglisi's Puglisi Stables. "It was a little tight down the stretch, but it turned out perfectly."

Da' Tara inherited the lead leaving the gate and was able to get away with an opening quarter-mile in 24.63 seconds under jockey John Velazquez. Rose, sensing the slow pace, let Roman Emperor ease off the rail and allowed him to go up and engage Da' Tara. The pace then quickened, and each of the next two quarter-miles were run in approximately 23 seconds.

Da' Tara led at the top of the stretch, but Roman Emperor poked his head in front at the furlong pole. Da' Tara was not done, though, and made Roman Emperor fight.

"They tried to slow it down a little bit in front of me," Rose said. "I got a hole to go in and moved out. I got up on that horse in the last part of the race, and my horse was just faster than him."

Roman Emperor has now won three times in eight starts. He was seventh of nine in the Wood Memorial in his previous start. He is a son of Empire Maker, who won the 2003 Belmont Stakes.