05/17/2006 12:00AM

Top three draw side by side

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Ridden by Peter Brette, Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro (left) stretches his legs at Fair Hill on Wednesday, accompanied by trainer Michael Matz.

BALTIMORE - They've got him surrounded. Now, we'll find out if they can outrun him. Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner, landed post 6, with primary rivals Brother Derek directly to his inside and Sweetnorthernsaint directly to his outside, when post positions were selected on Wednesday for the 131st Preakness Stakes on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

A field of nine entered the . Barbaro, Brother Derek, and Sweetnorthernsaint are the only horses who competed in the Derby two weeks ago. Brother Derek finished in a dead heat for fourth at Churchill Downs, and Sweetnorthernsaint was seventh. The other six 3-year-olds all skipped the Derby.

The draw had plenty of controversy and intrigue. First, Michael Matz, the trainer of Barbaro, originally selected a post that already had been chosen, and did not correct himself until after a supposed 60-second deadline had passed.

And when the field was set, much of the likely speed ended up in the outside of the gate, with Sweetnorthernsaint, Bernardini, and Diabolical occupying those stalls. With Like Now, who will start from the rail, also in the field, the pace figures to be lively the first time through the stretch of the 1 3/16-mile race.

The only other horse who had been under consideration for the Preakness was Ah Day, but trainer King Leatherbury elected to enter him in the Sir Barton Stakes on Saturday's undercard. Ah Day was not an original nominee to the Triple Crown, and thus would have had to be supplemented to the Preakness for $100,000.

Also Wednesday, trainer George Weaver officially named Richard Migliore to ride Greeley's Legacy.

Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, made Barbaro the 4-5 favorite. After much consideration, he made Brother Derek the second choice at 7-2, with Sweetnorthernsaint at 4-1. Frank Carulli, the linemaker at Pimlico, has Barbaro at even money, Brother Derek at 3-1, and Sweetnorthernsaint at 4-1.

The Preakness purse is $1 million. It is the 12th race on a 13-race card that begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern. Post time for the Preakness is 6:15 p.m. on Saturday. The race will be shown live by NBC Sports in a 90-minute telecast beginning at 5.

As at the Derby, posts for the Preakness were chosen using a convoluted two-step process. First a random draw Wednesday morning resulted in all nine horses being given a selection number, but the numbers were not announced then. A second random draw Wednesday evening at the ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor uncovered those numbers, and then someone associated with each horse had to make his way to the podium to select a post, all within 60 seconds.

For instance, the No. 5 pill was drawn first. That was the selection number assigned to Greeley's Legacy. Weaver, his trainer, selected post 4.

Barbaro's connections were the third to pick. As the clock wound down, Matz got to the podium and said he wanted post No. 4. That, obviously, was already taken. After an awkward delay, Matz then said he wanted post 6. He made that choice 70 seconds after Barbaro's name was announced to select. Rules announced at the beginning of the draw said that if a selection was not made within 60 seconds, that horse would have to go, as host Dave Johnson said, "to the back of the line."

But Mike Hopkins, overseeing the draw in his capacity as the executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, did not intervene, and the draw continued. Hopkins said Matz made his revised selection before time had elapsed. But a review of the tape by Daily Racing Form showed otherwise.

The snafu was reminiscent of a mix-up at the Derby several years ago, when the same colored pill was twice announced as being pulled during the draw, and the draw was subsequently delayed.

The Derby and the Preakness are the only races that have these types of multi-layered draws.

Earlier Wednesday, Brother Derek, the Santa Anita Derby winner, arrived at Pimlico at 2:25 p.m. after a flight from Kentucky.

"He's anxious. I think he's ready to go," said Cisco Alvarado, the assistant to trainer Dan Hendricks who accompanied Brother Derek on the flight.

Alvarado said Brother Derek galloped 1 1/8 miles on Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs, then left the stable area at 11 a.m. for the flight to Baltimore.

Brother Derek was only the second Preakness runner to reach the grounds, following the longshot Platinum Couple, who arrived Tuesday night after a van ride from Belmont Park.

Hemingway's Key also arrived on Wednesday after a van ride from Saratoga.

At the Fair Hill training center in northeastern Maryland, Barbaro went through another morning of routine training. Although Matz opted to have Barbaro train late in the morning on previous days, the colt was out early Wednesday when going through his paces shortly after 7 a.m.

With Peter Brette aboard, Barbaro was schooled for a few minutes at the starting gate, then galloped about a mile over the main track.

Barbaro was scheduled to undergo a similar training regimen Thursday and Friday mornings, then ship to Pimlico on Friday afternoon.

Bernardini, Greeley's Legacy, and Like Now all are scheduled to be sent by van from Belmont Park on Friday.

The last to arrive will be Sweetnorthernsaint, who is based at Laurel Park, and Diabolical, who is at Fair Hill. Both are scheduled to take van rides to Pimlico on Saturday morning.

Bernardini, the Withers Stakes winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.28 on Wednesday morning on a muddy track at Belmont Park for trainer Tom Albertrani. Exercise rider Simon Harris was aboard.

A brief rain shower hit Pimlico shortly before Brother Derek arrived, but it quickly blew away. The forecast from the Weather Channel for the next several days calls for high temperatures between the upper 60's and low 70's, with scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. The forecast for Saturday calls for a high temperature of 72, with showers possible.

- additional reporting by David Grening, Marty McGee, and Mike Watchmaker

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