04/18/2006 12:00AM

At stake: a berth and Derby history

Barbaro (left) is already in the Derby. Stablemate Showing Up is trying to join him.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Eighteen unbeaten horses have raced in the Kentucky Derby, and only twice have two unbeaten horses shared the same starting gate. Those Derby rarities occurred in 1963, with Candy Spots (who finished third) and Never Bend (fifth), and in 2000, with China Visit (sixth) and Trippi (11th).

There is a chance for a third occurrence to unfold after the Grade 2, $325,000 Lexington Stakes, to be run Saturday at Keeneland. The likely favorite for the Lexington is Showing Up, who, if he were to prevail, would proceed to the May 6 Derby at Churchill Downs with a 3-for-3 record. Showing Up would be the second unbeaten horse being pointed for this Derby, with Barbaro (5 for 5), one of the consensus favorites, being the other.

It just so happens that Lael Stables is the owner of both colts. Lael, owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson of West Grove, Pa., employs Michael Matz as the trainer of Barbaro and Barclay Tagg as the trainer of Showing Up. If both horses start, they would represent the first unbeaten duo in Derby history to share the same owner.

"The Jacksons already have Barbaro, and it doesn't really matter to them if there's one more horse to run against him, or 10 more," Tagg said early Tuesday while driving in northern Florida, en route from Ocala to Lexington. "If one of those horses is theirs, all the better."

Tagg said if Showing Up wins the Lexington, which would assure him enough graded earnings to get into the Derby if the field overfills, he definitely would run Showing Up back on two weeks' rest, "assuming he comes out of it okay." Although Showing Up is lightly raced, "he acts like he doesn't need much experience," said Tagg, who won the 2003 Derby with Funny Cide.

"He's a young horse, but he's very mature, very composed," Tagg said. "Everything seems to come so easy to him. Given his temperament, I'd have no reservations about running back in the Derby if he wins Saturday."

Showing Up, by Strategic Mission, won a Feb. 11 maiden race, then a March 11 allowance, both in highly impressive fashion at Gulfstream Park. About two weeks ago, Showing Up was shipped to Tagg's primary base at Belmont Park, where he has had two workouts, including a five-furlong breeze early Tuesday in 1:02.40. With Tagg traveling, his longtime assistant, Robin Smullen, oversaw the work and, a few hours later, had Showing Up loaded on a van for Lexington.

Cornelio Velasquez, who will have the mount Saturday in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, was aboard for both Belmont works. Javier Castellano rode Showing Up in both Gulfstream races, but when Castellano committed early to Corinthian for the April 8 Wood Memorial, the race Tagg had targeted for Showing Up, a change of jockey became necessary.

Then, leading up to the Wood, Corinthian was knocked off the Derby trail by an injury, and Showing Up missed the race because of a foot bruise, but Tagg declined to ask Castellano back for the Lexington.

"I couldn't keep going back and forth, so I decided to just stick with Cornelio," said Tagg.

Tagg said he could have attempted to run Showing Up last weekend in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, but Velasquez said after a swift April 12 work at Belmont that it wasn't worth trying. "I took his advice into account and began looking toward the Lexington," said Tagg. "It gives you one more shot. It's not a life-and-death situation for us. I don't feel any pressure to make the Derby or not. It's just that I really think this horse has a lot of ability, and I feel compelled to give him every chance to try."

In regard to making the Derby, "I always say, 'They have to take you there, you can't take them there,' " said Tagg. "That's what Saturday is about."

Besides Showing Up, the Lexington field also is expected to include Bear Character, Chin High, Fast Parade, Greeley's Legacy, Hemingway's Key, Like Now, More Than Regal, and To Sender. Sunriver was declared out of the Lexington by trainer Todd Pletcher on Tuesday.

The Lexington, along with the Tesio Stakes from Pimlico, will be televised on a delayed basis by ESPN2, with coverage starting at 6 p.m. Eastern.

Chin High not being considered for Derby

Although the connections of most of the Lexington prospects would like to run back in the Derby, that is not the case with Chin High, according to trainer Neil Pessin.

Chin High, the 68-1 winner of the Transylvania Stakes on opening day for owner Ike Thrash, won't run in the Derby even if he wins Saturday, said Pessin.

"We've got nothing to lose," said Pessin. "We already know he's a good grass horse, but if we take a shot against good horses on the dirt, that would open up a lot of options for us. If he wins or runs good Saturday, we'll look toward the Preakness, but not the Derby. That's out."

Solomon remembered as true professional

Mickey Solomon, who was the head Daily Racing Form clocker at Keeneland and Churchill for 30 years, was extraordinarily dedicated and had a rare talent for his line of work, according to former colleagues and friends.

Solomon, who died Monday in Louisville at 76, "had the sharpest identification skills I ever saw," said Toby Callet, a south Florida-based public handicapper and clocker who has worked most major circuits in the United States. "Not only was he quite possibly the best clocker on this continent, but he was a good man. He had that gruff exterior and could be very intimidating, but after you got to know him, that wasn't him at all."

Solomon, who worked for DRF into the late 1990's, helped resolve a controversy surrounding the Kentucky Derby clocking for Lil E. Tee in 1992. The posted time was 2:04, but Solomon objected, saying the clock had been started prematurely. After a few days, the time was officially changed to 2:03.04.

"Mickey had a great eye for a horse," said Lynn Whiting, trainer of Lil E. Tee. "You couldn't fool Mickey by using a different saddle towel or going onto a different gap. He was a far cry from most of the clockers you see today. He was a real pro."

A memorial service for Solomon was scheduled for Wednesday evening in Louisville.