The first thing a young trainer learns after becoming skilled at cooling out his owners is variations on the phrase it was just what we wanted.

Whether it refers to the manner of a recent victory or the speed and style of a just completed workout, it was perfect. Its up to him now, hes as fit as hands can make him. Hell have no excuses.

In the case of the final Kentucky Derby preparations for the undefeated Curlin and juvenile champion Street Sense, their concluding trials were perfect unless, of course, either or both are outrun.

Curlin, certainly fit enough after having run within the last three weeks, had a conditioning breeze at Keeneland on April 23 and on Monday had a perfect lung-opener at Churchill Downs. The half-mile work, termed breezing, was timed in :48 2/5. This followed an opening quarter mile of :24 1/5. Nice, even, 12-second furlongs always put smiles on the faces of horsemen.

Curlin galloped out an additional eighth mile in :13 seconds, for five furlongs in 1:01 2/5.

If Curlins work was perfect, Tuesdays move by Street Sense was pluperfect.

Following the glacially-paced Blue Grass, Street Sense needed a speed move and got one: five furlongs in :59, breezing. At once, the work put speed back into the colt and reaffirmed his preference for the Louisville track. I expected that trainer Carl Nafzger was looking for five-eighths in 1:01 Tuesday.

Could you, should you, say super-perfect-extra-good?

One minute and one fifth exactly, off a half-mile fraction of :49 4/5. Thats a final eighth in a worthy :11 1/5 and he galloped out another furlong in :12-flat, giving him a gallop-out time of 1:13 for six furlongs.

Without urging, Street Sense finished up his work/gallop in :23 1/5. This is textbook preparation for a race as demanding as the 20-horse Kentucky Derby.

Hard Spuns work earlier this week, however, is a difficult read. The good news is that he apparently loves Churchill Downs and with six weeks between starts needed a strong final move. What trainer Larry Jones got from Hard Spun, working in company early with a Grade 1-winning filly sprinter, was five-eighths in :57 3/5, the fastest recorded Derby week workout in 34 years.

Good horses work fast; fresh horses work fast. The colt reportedly was a little tired coming back to the barn but had his energy back within 15 minutes, according to Jones. Or was that meant to cool out the critics? Workouts are very important. They can win or lose races by being too fast or too slow.

In that context this very tough Derby puzzle just got a little tougher. Now, for todays post position draw, and a whole new set of handicapping riddles.