January 27, 2023

Barkley gives legion of fans reason to cheer in Longacres Mile

Barkley proved he's not just a pretty face in the Longacres Mile (Reed and Erin Palmer Photography/Emerald Downs)

With a fan club stretching from his Emerald Downs base to social media denizens everywhere, Rising Star Stable III’s Barkley has been something of a cult hero ever since starting his career with a six-race winning spree in 2015-16. But the flashy chestnut reached a new level by capturing his home track’s biggest race, Sunday’s 83rd running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile H. (G3).

“This is way up there – might need a parachute to get down,” said trainer Howard Belvoir, whose third Longacres Mile trophy came as a tonic after a hospital stay last week.

Barkley’s popularity, and his admirable 8-for-16 record compiled exclusively at Emerald, made him vie for favoritism with multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Alert Bay. The betting public ultimately sided with the back class of Alert Bay, dispatching him as the 9-5 favorite despite his 13-month layoff.

Barkley, the 5-2 second choice, had the advantage of building up to the Mile through the series of local preps. After a successful allowance comeback on May 13, his first start since a fourth in last year’s Mile, the five-year-old finished second in the June 3 Governor’s S., a troubled fourth (elevated from fifth via disqualification) in the June 24 Budweiser S., and second again in the July 15 Mt. Rainier. Although beaten by the streaking Riser, Barkley recorded a career-best BRIS Speed rating of 100 in that final tune-up. And with Riser ruled out of the Mile, Barkley represented the form well on Sunday.

As expected, stretch-out sprinter Kaabraaj tried to nurse his speed through fractions of :23.47 and :46.08 on the fast track. Oh Marvelous Me, the 8-1 longest shot on the board, tracked in second before heading the longtime leader at the six-furlong mark in 1:09.98. Alert Bay was trying to lift, perhaps feeling ring-rustiness when asked on the far turn, and making workmanlike progress in the stretch.

Barkley and regular rider Javier Matias in the winner’s circle (Reed and Erin Palmer Photography/Emerald Downs)

But Barkley, who had been well positioned to save ground on the far turn, angled out purposefully. Taking his time to switch leads, the son of Munnings responded to regular rider Javier Matias, and took off once organized. Barkley punched 1 1/2 lengths clear of Alert Bay while clocking 1:34.93.

Oh Marvelous Me was third, 3 1/4 lengths to the good of Mach One Rules, who was up against it after breaking in the air and tardily. Kaaabraaj tired to fifth, and Mike Maker’s Kentucky shipper Conquest Windycity was last of the six for the duration.

Barkley’s scorecard now stands at 17-9-4-1, $351,800, reflecting five prior stakes victories in the 2015 Emerald Express as a juvenile; the Auburn H., Coca-Cola, and Seattle Slew at three; and last year’s Governor’s. He suffered his first loss by a head in the 2016 Emerald Downs Derby, the most notable of his four stakes placings.

Bred by Candy Meadows in Kentucky, Barkley was bought by Belvoir’s partner, Vicky Potter, for a bargain $21,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. He is the first registered foal from the unraced Medaglia d’Oro mare Numero d’Oro, from the family of current Inside Information (G2) winner Ivy Bell, also the runner-up in the May 5 Humana Distaff (G1) and June 9 Ogden Phipps (G1).