05/08/2006 12:00AM

View from saddle - of Barbaro's rear

Barbaro, with Edgar Prado riding, overpowers his Kentucky Derby rivals with his margin of victory - 6 1/2 lengths - the largest since Assault's in 1946.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the chaos of the moments just before the running of the 132nd Kentucky Derby, Lilliana Prado and her two young children, Luis and Patricia, were blocked out of their box seats in the jockeys' section of the Churchill Downs grandstand. It happens.

The Prados were rescued by Alex Solis Jr., the 21-year-old son of Brother Derek's jockey, who ushered them into his family box. Moments later, as the race unfolded before them, Alex Jr. looked on with mixed emotions as the Prado kids cheered their father to victory, while Alex Sr. sustained another Derby defeat.

"Luis was gong crazy, but you were quiet," Solis said later to Lilliana Prado in the jockeys' room lounge. "I thought you would be screaming for joy."

"I didn't want to," she replied with a shy smile. "I was afraid if I screamed, the horse would stop."

No chance of that. Not on this day, when the unbeaten Barbaro carried Edgar Prado to an effortless victory of 6 1/2 lengths over a field that was supposed to be tough as nails. The margin was the greatest in the Derby since 1946, when Assault began his Triple Crown run with an eight-length Derby score.

Ramon Dominquez, aboard the 30-1 runner-up Bluegrass Cat, had the best view of Barbaro from among the riders who were nearest at the end. Dominguez even allowed himself a few moments of hope through the first mile of the journey.

"At the half-mile I had so much horse I got pretty excited," said Dominguez, who was riding in his third Kentucky Derby. "I started watching the horses in front of me, and I could see Edgar had a lot of horse. About that time Sweetnorthernsaint started making a move inside. When I saw that, I wondered if it was not just one horse, but several horses making a run. The last thing I wanted to do was get covered up, or have horses pass me.

"So I put my horse on the bridle and got an immediate response," Dominguez went on. "Now I'm really getting excited. I look at the horse I am following, which is Barbaro, and he's moving with a nice long stride. I think, this is going to be the horse to beat. I was just hoping that he wouldn't kick it in the way he did. But he did."

Robby Albarado was too busy threading Steppenwolfer through the large field to be troubled by what Dominguez saw. Blissfully ignorant of Barbaro, Albarado was counting on a meltdown among the front-runners, akin to the 2005 scenario that helped the cause of Giacomo.

"I was able to save ground on both turns and never left the fence," said Albarado, trying his eighth Derby. "I did get bounced pretty good about the 3 1/2 [furlong pole], but it didn't bother my horse. He's been bounced around his whole career. I got out when I wanted, and I really thought I might have a shot. Then about that time I saw Edgar leaving the field. He was just hand-riding." They settled for third.

Kent Desormeaux, the two-time Derby winner riding favored Sweetnorthernsaint, returned to the room full of respect for Barbaro, while spinning tales of horror and woe. The videotape replay backed up his story.

Desormeaux winced at the sight of a four-horse squeeze in front of him, at about the half-mile mark, that forced him into a defensive spurt along the rail. A quarter-mile later, he found himself slipping through inside the exhausted Keyed Entry, finding room where even the bravest angels might fear to tread.

"Look at this. Oh, my God." Desormeaux shook his head. "Tell me we don't get stupid for the roses. Where was that jock going? The horse had a right to ask. I didn't want to be there, but there we were. Then, when we finally got through, it was time to get going. But when I asked him there was no surge. It was like hitting a sack of potatoes."

Sweetnorthernsaint, perhaps more shell-shocked than tired, ended up seventh.

Of all the vanquished, only a dejected Alex Solis made a case for his horse being deprived of a chance to challenge Barbaro's glorious run. Not only did Brother Derek break from post 18, he also lost a front shoe, raced extremely wide on both turns, and was bumped repeatedly down the backstretch by horses like Lawyer Ron and Sharp Humor before finishing in a dead heat for fourth with Jazil, 9 1/2 lengths behind the winner.

"I don't think the shoe made that much difference," said Solis, who has now ridden 15 Derbies without winning. "He's got such a beautiful stride, I wouldn't really feel anything."

Solis has invested a lot of emotional capital in the fortunes of Brother Derek. To arrive at the big day and find themselves victims of circumstance was hard to swallow. Still, it takes a lot of faith to justify 9 1/2 lengths worth of trouble. For focus, Solis will be chanting the mantra of Hansel, Louis Quatorze, and his own mount Snow Chief, all well-respected Derby losers who found glory in the Preakness.

"To go through all my horse did and still keep trying - do you know what kind of courage that takes?" Solis demanded. "I'm even prouder of him today than I was before.

"So let's do it again," he added. "Brother Derek and Barbaro."