HOW HE GOT HERE
Barber Road made his debut back in August in a five furlong maiden special weight race on the main track at Colonial Downs. I’m not sure anyone watching the races that afternoon in New Kent, Virginia would have believed that he would develop into a horse that would earn a berth into the starting into the 148th Kentucky Derby, yet here we are. He finished a non-threatening 4th that afternoon in a performance that certainly didn’t inspire much confidence in his connections. That was evident when his next start was in a two turn $30K maiden claiming race at Keeneland in October. He was a much the best, gate to wire winner that afternoon, and hasn’t been entered for a tag since.
He returned to a sprint race to face $30K starter allowance foes at Churchill in a race where he again dominated his opponents. He came back 17 days later to run a close second in the Lively Shively Stakes going 6 and ½ furlongs, beaten by Tejano Twist.
Following a successful stint in Kentucky, John Ortiz brought him south where Barber Road would go to run in all four of the Derby Points races at Oaklawn Park. Re-watching all of those races, it kind of felt like I was watching the saw race over and over from him. Each race, he would be around midpack, letting the front runners do their thing. He would make progress before coming with his late run, which was good enough to hit the board, but not good enough to win. He was second to Dash Attack in the Smarty Jones, second to Newgrange in the Southwest, third behind Un Ojo and Ethereal Road in the Rebel, and second to Cyberknife in the Arkansas Derby. These efforts were good enough to tally 60 Derby Points, which is the most of any horse that didn’t win a Derby Points Race.
HOW HE FITS HERE
The prep races in Arkansas were definitely a cut below the top tier races this season. The winning Beyer figures for all of their races were lower than the other races at each point level. That being said, Barber Road always ran his race. As the fields got tougher, he continued to find ways to get close to the winner each time, earning a solid paycheck for his owners and accumulating Derby Points.
He’s a smaller horse that has a bit of shiftiness about him. He came over the top in the Rebel Stakes when Newgrange was stronger than him in the stretch, however, most of his other rallies came while racing in between horses. He also had trouble maintaining a straight path, ducking in while trying to shift leads and level out. Once he got right, he would close well and gallop out strong, but those antics probably cost him the Rebel. While you can certainly question his class, I don’t think his toughness is in doubt.
In terms of the Derby, he’s the kind of horse that might not be the worst choice to throw in the bottom of the trifectas or supers at long odds. While the chance of getting knocked around hard exists, we’ve seen some more diminutive and shifty horses perform well in this race in years past, most notably Mine That Bird.
— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 22, 2022
CONNECTIONS AND PEDIGREE
Barber Road is sired by Race Day, whose biggest win on the track was a victory in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap. While he’s been slow to catch on as a sire, it’s been a good Triple Crown season for him. He’s one of three sires that stand to have more than one son racing in the Derby (White Abarrio is also sired by Race Day). The dam Encounter wasn’t much on the racetrack, but her sire, Southern Image won graded stakes races at distances from seven to nine and a half furlongs on dirt.
He stands to be the first Kentucky Derby starter for trainer John Ortiz. Ortiz is typically based in Kentucky, but he spent his first winter at Oaklawn this year and has done very well, winning 24 races going into the week of April 22nd, (good enough to be in 4th place in the trainer standings at the meet), winning at a 21% clip. Reylu Gutierrez, who has ridden Barber Road in six of his eight career starts, will also be making his first start in the Derby. He’s coming off a 51 win meet at the Fair Grounds, where he finished 5th overall in the rider standings there.
While he always shows up, he’s never been able to break through to win in stakes company. For a $15K purchase as a weanling at the Keeneland November Sale in 2019, that is still eligible for a first level allowance, he’s done pretty well for himself, banking over $650K in earnings on the racetrack. It’s hard to envision him running a winning race here, but I think his consistency, grit, and determination make him a horse that could add value to the bottom of the trifectas and superfectas. That would appear to be his ceiling in a race like the Derby.