- So, as I've hinted here before, I love Street Sense in the Blue Grass on Saturday. Unlike Any Given Saturday's preparation for the Wood, Street Sense has been working forwardly for Carl Nafzger, and I just get the feeling that he's primed to move forward, and not to bounce from the Tampa Bay Derby. This is despite what was a slow workout the other day.
Under regular rider Calvin Borel, Street Sense finished strong in a five-furlong workout Tuesday at Churchill Downs, but his time of 1:04 was the second slowest of the day.He also had a slow work three days before the Tampa race. His prior work was that five furlong breeze in 58 2/5. My opinion is that it would be a mistake to downgrade him on the basis of Any Given Saturday's disappointing Wood.
"I think we got what we wanted," Nafzger said. [AP]
"A win is what I want," Nafzger said. "A second or third does not mean we're out of it, but we want to win. That will show us we are where we want to be. Our horse is ready to win and we still got more to tank out of him."And that of course would be no surprise; the Derby will be his third race of the form cycle, a usually positive angle which has been treated as a Derby negative by many people, including myself, over the years (and for pretty good reason, I suppose). I think that Street Sense is going to win this race easily, by six or seven lengths.
Great Hunter beat Street Sense in the Breeders Futurity on the Polytrack there last fall, but the Juvenile champ traveled 38.5 feet more than the winner that day, according to Trakus, and lost by less than two. I've been very high on Great Hunter, who has been at or near the top of my top ten list all year. But I'm getting rather skeptical of Doug O'Neill, whose Derby team has been faltering of late. When things were going well for him, his campaign for Great Hunter seemed innovative; now, it seems a little wacky. Four months off before the Bob Lewis, followed by an easy win against what I thought was middling competition. Then another seven weeks off with just two workouts....and then on to the Derby three weeks later.
O'Neill says: "We're definitely in the [Blue Grass] to win it, then come out of it good and be solid in 3 weeks."
"I think it's going to be a pretty [slow] run race early and then just a dash home," O'Neill said. "Whatever happens, happens. Those kinds of races are almost like turf races. Horses generally bounce out of them in better shape." [Philadelphia Daily News]He feels that a race on Polytrack will serve the colt well in terms of coming back three weeks hence. But I don't know if I'm buying the whole plan.
As for the rest of them, I believe it's a race to fill in the trifecta ticket. Zanjero is a solidly consistent late closer who I actually wouldn't mind having at 55-1 in the Derby futures pool. Dominican looks like a Polytrack specialist who could certainly sneak in for third. But I think that if the price is right, Teuflesberg might be worth a look for the minor award. He did beat Ravel on this track last fall. And he missed the break in the Rebel and was taken completely out of his game, yet still finished third. Whatsmore, there ain't no other early speed in here. So we could be looking at a cold triple of Street Sense/Great Hunter/Teuflesberg.
- Steve Crist has some facts and figures regarding the low Beyers we've seen in the three-year old division thus far:
This is the first year since 1993 that neither the Florida Derby, Wood, nor Santa Anita Derby has yielded a Beyer in excess of 100. For the record, those 1993 slow-prep winners were Personal Hope, Bull Inthe Heather, and Storm Tower, who ran fourth, 11th, and 16th behind Sea Hero at Churchill Downs. The only other time since 1991 that even two of those races have earned only double-digit Beyers was in 2004, when Tapit and Friends Lake won the Wood and Florida Derby in slow performances and then ran ninth and 15th in the slop behind Smarty Jones.
Unlike some years when there has been ambiguity surrounding the speed figures earned in preps, this year's numbers have been straightforward. It's the quality of the division's leaders that's hard to make sense of, and horseplayers will have their hands full on Derby Day deciding what to do with a full field of horses whose achievements are so disparate but whose speed figures are so closely bunched together. [Daily Racing Form (sub. or print edition only).
- And more trouble at the Big A. There have been questions about the condition of the main track and its ability to handle rain, and after yesterday's downpour, the jockeys < refused to ride there