Barbaro’s little brother Margano as a yearling. In case you didn’t hear already, the Jacksons have recently and unexpectedly “fired” original trainer Michael Matz and have moved their horses– Margano included– to alternate trainers. They gave no reason (and really, looking at Matz’s record, had no clear reason) for the switch other than “needing a change.”

Margano has begun galloping in Saratoga under Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide and Jersey Town, so watch for him there!

Last Gunfighter, who had his six-race winning streak stopped by Flat Out in the Suburban Handicap (gr. II), looks to start another one when he takes on seven rivals in the 1 1/8-mile Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park.

So Margano, Barbaro’s second to last full brother, is running in the Iselin on Sunday.  I’m going to watch and hopefully cheer him home a winner.  He looked so amazing winning his last start - the Eight Thirty Stakes at Delaware that was washed off the turf.  He seems to have found a new home on the dirt.  Just like Barbaro.

Margano finished a safe second, about ¾ of a length behind the winner, Osceola Prince. A few feet past the finish line, Margano passed the winner. 

Derby Watch: Good Gracious Grass Horses

Normally– and with good reason– I don’t look too hard at horses with a grass preference typed into their hard-wiring. Grass and dirt are just two completely different beats, but ever since Barbaro and again with Animal Kingdom’s win last year, the issue begs to be reconsidered. Can a good grass horse also be good on synthetic (sometimes!), and even the almighty dirt?

Looking at some horses with a natural-born affinity for grass or those who have been training over it, a few of them are tugging at me to include in the Kentucky Derby picture.

  • Margano - On and off as an improving grass horse, he’s Barbaro’s latest full brother trained by Barclay Tagg. Featuring a (sometimes) emphatic late kick, he’s looking like a pretty nice horse, but again, is not too consistent. He recently finished seventh in a Gulfstream allowance/op claimer after breaking his maiden, but shows he can more than likely nail that Derby distance.
  • Lucky Chappy [pictured] - Something just makes this horse pop out to me. He was a good fourth in the BC Juvenile Turf (I) despite not being terribly experienced, and is part of Team Valor’s Graham Motion contingent. Could he improve on the dirt? (As an aside, his coloring/tail is so beautiful!)
  • Our Entourage - Knowing his connections, Mike Repole’s three-year-old colt is destined to try dirt again after coming in fifth in the Remsen Stakes (II). He has a fantastic grass pedigree (by Street Cry [IRE] and out of a Dynaformer mare). He’s a nice horse with the potential to blossom, which I think he will do down the road, but in time for the Derby… that’s a real interesting question.
  • Animal Spirits - Another horse I liked straight out of the walking ring. He showed a lot of potential winning the Bourbon (III) and then came in fifth in the BC Juvenile Turf (I). A son of Arch and trained by Al Stall, who knows, he could be tested on dirt.
  • Summer Front - 3-for-3 on the grass, Summer Front made up for a bad start in the Dania Beach Stakes to win easily on turf, and according to his connections, deserves a shot at the Derby. Pending a test on the dirt at some point, War Front progeny are becoming infamously good on grass but shouldn’t be discounted elsewhere. This one is special already.

Margano returns to the track this Saturday at Aqueduct!

After three months away, he will be running in the 9th race on Saturday (post time about 4:12), a $69,000 Allowance race to be run on the turf at a distance of 1 1/16 miles, with Junior Alvarado getting the mount.