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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Straddling the Fence on Street Sense

- I haven't weighed in with a strong opinion on the decision not to run Street Sense because I don't really have one. I think there are valid points made by both sides, though it must be said definitively that no one has the right to demand that the trainer or owner run their horse whether it's for the good of the game or whatever. (And full disclosure demands that Bill Finley let us know if he has a futures bet on Street Sense in the Belmont.) But we can ask politely, especially when the rider and trainer spoke of how well he did in his workout.

A couple of readers questioned the decision. Lenny wrote:

I can not believe Nafzger said that if SS ran in the Belmont he would not have sufficient time to recover and prepare for the Travers. Last time I checked the Travers was in late August, meaning the horse would have two months to rest before the Jim Dandy or Haskell. Is two months not enough time?
Reader kjc wrote:
Nafzger had said that Tafel so badly wanted to win the Triple Crown that when they lost at the wire it took a lot out of them and left them totally disappointed. Are we then to believe that if they did win in Baltimore that the Belmont would be contested no matter what the situation, whether Street Sense was 100% or less?
Taken together, those two arguments make a compelling case - the fact is that he's only run four times and he'd likely have enough time to prepare for the Travers even if he ran in the Belmont, as he most assuredly would have if Borel hadn't peeked over his shoulder (just kidding), probably even if he was less than 100%.

But on the other hand, he didn't win the Preakness, and I think it's understandable that the Belmont isn't a compelling attraction for Mr. Tafel now, with the prospects of the late summer and fall championship races to come. I know not everyone would agree with this, but I think that the Belmont, because of its mile and a half distance, is just not a definitive race these days unless it's determining a Triple Crown. To me, it doesn't determine who is the better horse, but rather, merely who is the better horse at a mile and a half. And since that is a freaky distance nowadays, it doesn't necessarily mean a thing to me. Easy Goer was eight lengths better than Sunday Silence at a mile and a half, but would anyone say he was a better horse? (OK, I know some people will always believe that he was..)

Of course that's not always the case - sometimes, the best horse is just the best horse; Afleet Alex comes to mind as a recent example. But then you have your Jazil, Birdstone, and Sarava.

So I believe that the question of who is better between Curlin and Street Sense probably would not have been addressed in the Belmont, and by holding him out, the owner and trainer feel that he'll be better off when the matter is settled for real at Saratoga, Belmont in the fall, and, hopefully, at Monmouth. And just maybe, that will ultimately turn out to be the best thing for the game.

That seems a bit geographically selfish of me, doesn't it? By the way, the deadline draws near for getting totally ripped off for the Breeders Cup. The application (pdf file) needs to be received by June 6 in order for you to qualify for the random drawing. And remember, there's no walk-up cash admission, you need to have a ticket for at least the $50 general admission; or for the seating which starts at $100. Oh, and $25 to get into the Monmouth parking lot ($10 for remote lots), and that's all prepaid too.


Anonymous said...

So the connections are so disappointed they have decided to make the rest of us share their pain? And why did they even bother to breeze him?

Problem is, you can not plan for the future in this sport. IF he is fit and ready to run now, run him.
No guarantee he will stay sound during the "sit and the barn and admire" him period.

Most importantly, the general public does not care about the Travers.

Nor do the voters for 3yo Eclipse.

IF Curlin wins the Belmont, he wins the eclipse, unless SS somehow comes back and wins the BC Classic, a long shot at best.

Anonymous said...

PS - my conspiracy theory is that there is a very large offer on the table from a stud farm, and they do not want to screw it up.

Anonymous said...

I really don't get why people are kicking up such a fuss about this. Welcome to modern day racing, and why did you expect anything different? I admit I'm new to the sport, but suffering through all the early retirements of my favorites and seeing such things as Ghostzapper earning HoY off of four starts (and only two of them GIs) even I figured out the way things were quick enough.

There was zero reason to run Street Sense in the Belmont and everyone should be counting their blessings that it looks like he'll make 2 or 3 more starts before he's retired.

Anonymous said...

There also was zero reason for Alydar, Easy Goer or Sham to run in the Belmont, except sportmanship, which no longer exists in this "sport".

Anonymous said...

For me, winning the Belmont is more important than winning the Derby or Preakness. Belmont Stakes winners produce more Grade I stakes winners than Derby winners- you could look it up. The Derby has won breeders acclaim despite evidence that indicates the Belmont has produced more stakes winners over the years. NYRA can be faulted for allowing the prestige of the Belmont Stakes to decline and not keeping the Belmont at the center of every owner and trainer's radar screen; Bob Baffert is right- NY racing needs to insure that the Belmont Stakes maintains it's prestige by offering more owner/trainer incentives to run, Triple Crown or no Triple Crown on the line. And yes, if Curlin wins the Belmont he should get the Eclipse no matter what happens in the BC Classic. Racing needs to send the signal that an Eclipse campaign will be judged on the entire season's record- and noting big races skipped- not just the Breeders Cup./S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

I have to respectfully disagree with a couple of you here. Do you think that if Curlin wins the Belmont, but is beaten convincingly by Street Sense in the Travers; and say neither of them race again, just for argument's sake. You think then that Curlin would still get the three-year old Eclipse? I don't.

ljk said...

Without a triple crown on the line, the "general public" doesn't care about the Belmont either. I think we'll see that when the Belmont TV ratings are released. I don't think SS being in would change that much. As a racing fan, I love the Travers and I think eclipse award voters do too.

Nafzger didn't say he couldn't get to the Travers from the Belmont, but that he'd not have a time for a prep. That prep possibly being the Haskell on the host track for the Breeder's Cup. I don't blame Nafzger a bit

Anonymous said...

I agree Alan. If Curlin wins the Belmont I don't think it really is going to count for much in the minds of the voters, particularly if he then gets defeated again by Street Sense.

Anonymous said...

Carl said today the horse is fine and could run if they wanted to, so he should run. There are no guarantees in life and fewer in racing.

Carl has been around a long time and should realize this more than anyone, you need to take your shots when your horse is good, he may not be good tomorrow.

Hence my speculation that a big stud deal is in the works which they do not wish to jeopardize. The logical candidates are the owners of SS's sire.

My guess is it is announced one week after the Belmont hoopla dies down, and the horse will run in someone elses colors next time you see him, if you see him.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who believes the Belmont is not "the" race that matters most to breeders is kidding themselves,

That said SS looked juiced steching his legs earlier this week. If I'm the owner he stays in the barn.

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