Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Score one for the hardboots
Trained to the minute by Carl Nafzger and ridden to perfection by Calvin Borel, Street Sense stormed to victory in the 133rd Kentucky Derby. And a popular victory it was, both with the fans (who made him the 9/2 betting favorite) and also with denizens of the backstretch. Both Borel and Nafzger are griity, homespun folks, and all the high-fives and hugs after the race (from outriders to fellow jockeys and trainers) were a testament to the work ethic and horsemanship of these two old-school racetrackers.
Since I moved to New York City in 1986, I have seen every Belmont Stakes in person. Beginning with Alysheba in 1987 and ending with Smart Jones in 2004, I have witnessed eight failed attempts to win the Triple Crown. Will this year finally be the year? My gut tells me yes. Some may view Street Sense as a one-dimensional closer who requires a good pace and a trouble-free journey to be effective. I disagree. This is an animal that can accelerate on a dime and has the tactical speed to be placed anywhere Borel chooses. If he doesn’t need to “take his track with him”, Street Sense is a serious threat to become the first Triple Crown winner in 29 years.
Hard Spun was valiant in defeat, setting all the pace and fighting to the end. Coming of a six-week rest and a blistering 57-3/5 work, he silenced his critics along with others who had questioned Larry Jones’s training regimen. I believe Hard Spun will be particularly dangerous in the Belmont if he contests it. His high cruising speed along with his bloodlines (Danzig out of a Turkoman mare) will make him one tough customer at a mile-and-a-half.
Curlin, although beaten eight lengths, will also probably go in the Preakness. After three easy wins versus inferior competition, Curlin did not disgrace himself against the “big boys”. He was finishing well at the end, and certainly rates to make his presence felt somewhere down the road.
As for the others, Sedgefield (my long-shot pick underneath) ran creditably as he was the only pace-presser to finish in the top half of the field, missing the show spot by only a length. Looks like he may go to the Ohio Derby at Thistledown and then back to turf.
Biggest disappointments for me were No Biz Like Showiz, who had no visible excuse after contesting the pace, Scat Daddy, who never looked comfortable, and Great Hunter, who was six or seven wide on both turns but still in contention at the top of the stretch. Nice ride, Corey.
With his five-horse contingent, the best Todd Pletcher could manage was sixth place with Circular Quay. It is doubtful any of these five will show up for the Preakness, but King Of the Roxy will be there to represent the Pletcher barn. I’ll say one thing about The Pletch – the man exudes class. When asked if with all his other accomplishments he felt he needed to win the Derby to be considered Hall of Fame material, he replied “yes”. You’re wrong Todd, you’re a cinch for the Hall right now. But I guess it shows all of us what a prize the Derby really is.
Now, it’s on to Baltimore. In addition to King of the Roxy, Chelokee is probably the only other new shooter who can compete with the top three from the Derby.
All in all, it was a very profitable and satisfying Derby Day. But if Great Hunter or Sedgefield had managed to sneak into the tri or super, I’d probably still be out celebrating.
So far its Street Sense 1, Book Smarts 0.
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