In what is likely to be the most closely watched maiden race in recent thoroughbred history, Nicanor - the full brother of Barbaro - will get his first start Saturday at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla.
The 3-year-old dark bay - who has the same sire, Dynaformer, and dam, La Ville Rouge, as the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner - is in the eighth race, a one-miler on dirt with a field of 12.
The timing of Nicanor's debut coincides with two Barbaro milestones. Today marks the second anniversary of Barbaro's death. And the race that precedes Nicanor's maiden race, the Holy Bull Stakes, was won by Barbaro three years ago.
Like Barbaro, Nicanor is trained by Michael Matz and owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson of West Grove, Pa. Nicanor, with the No. 4 post position, will be ridden Saturday by Edgar Prado, the jockey atop Barbaro in the Derby and the Preakness.
"Obviously, as good as his brother was, it's big shoes to fill," Matz said this week. "But he's matured mentally and physically, and his training has gone well. We just hope that it's time for him to start."
Matz had been weighing whether to start Nicanor on Saturday or the following weekend on turf.
"It's great to have him get there," Roy Jackson said yesterday. "In this game, a lot can go wrong. And we've been involved long enough to know that you never do know until the horse gets started. Obviously, there's particular interest because of Barbaro, but we hope that he can be a half-decent racehorse."
Comparisons are inevitable.
"He's not as long and as leggy as Barbaro, but he's a big horse and he's a very attractive horse," Matz said of Nicanor.
The Jacksons are heading to Florida to see Nicanor's first outing, and Roy says there are physical similarities between the two horses.
"He has a larger blaze on his face," Jackson said, "but when you see him, he does remind you of Barbaro in certain ways, the shape of his head and his size."