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Preakness Stakes: Todd says it’s a closer’s race
by Geir Stabell ( / Globeform (
Last update: 2007-05-18 05:54:06 (First published: 2007-05-17 05:03:24 )

Pimlico Saturday: Nine go to post. Three of them filled the trifecta in the Kentucky Derby (G1) two weeks ago, and they will be the top three choices in the betting of the Preakness Stakes (G1).

The impressive Derby winner Street Sense renews rivalrly with Hard Spun, who ran the race of his life at Churchill Downs, and Curlin, who was a game third without producing his best form.

If a horse is to sneak in between, never mind beat, these three, it will probably be trained by Todd Pletcher. Last year’s champion trainer came away with nothing after running five in the first leg of the Triple Crown. Saturday he runs two. King of the Roxy has been rested since his second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Circular Quay joins the fray after a sixt place finish in the Derby.

Pletcher let Circular Quay join the mix as he felt the race will set up well for a closer. Carl Nafzger would have no complaints if that turns out to be correct.


Pimlico 12 May 2007 – 1 3/16 miles dirt
Horses presented with best Globeform, sire,
GF achieved last three to four starts (l-to-r) and rider

A ‘+’ after rating indicates improvement expected

130+ / STREET SENSE (Street Cry) GF 130+ / 117+ 111+ 128+ / C Borel
123+ / HARD SPUN (Danzig) GF 113+ 106 – 119+ 123+ / M Pino
122+ / CURLIN (Smart Strike) GF ?++ 115+ 122+ 112+ / R Albarado
116+ / CIRCULAR QUAY (Thunder Gulch) GF 110+ / 0 – 115+ 109 / J Velazquez
113+ / KING OF THE ROXY (Littleexpectations) GF 113+ / 0 // 113+ 112+ / G Gomez
106+ / FLYING FIRST CLASS (Perfect Mandate) GF 106+ / M Guidry
106+ / C P WEST (Came Home) GF 106+ // 99+ / E Prado
105+ / XCHANGER (Exchange Rate) GF 105+? / 99 – 88 – 105+? / R Dominguez
..95 / MINT SLEWLEP (Slew City Slew) GF 95 / 92 - ?+ 95 / A Garcia

STREET SENSE was our selection in the Kentucky Derby and there is no reason to go against him here. The only worry is the shorter distance. Or, to put it more correctly, the possibility of a combination of a cut back in trip and a moderate pace. Give him an hones pace, and he wins again. The pace may not have to be furious either, for Street Sense to produce a high class performance. Take a look back at his win over Any Given Saturday (in track record time) at Tampa Bay. That day, Borel asked him to make a move from just off the pace – and make that move on the turn. The response was incredible, ans we all saw again what a top class horse he is two weeks ago.

He looks the complete racehorse. He travels really well in his races, he is running with great zest without pulling, he is not bothered by kick back, he is not intimidated by traffic, and he has a fantastic turn of foot. Passing horses as if they were trotting, he advanced from second last to first at Churchill Downs, and produced a most unusual performance.

His best performance, on Globeform ratings, came at the Breeders’ Cup last year – not in the Kentucky Derby. He was close to his personal best that day, however, and we are treating him like a horse who is at the top of his game – with possibility of improvement still. The Preakness will be hard race to win though, and it will probably be the race that decides his Triple Crown bid. It is hard to see any other the others troubling Street Sense when we get to the Belmont, as he has such superior stamina. He beat Hard Spun by 2 ¼ lengths in the Derby, and would have beten him by at least double that margin if one had added another furlong, never mind two. Curlin, who is a much more likely improver than both Street Sense and Hard Spun, was a well beaten third. He did run a very good race, for such an inexperienced colt. He will be happier in a smaller field, and he will be happier over this distance, so perhaps he is the one for the exacta. Only if he can take all this mentally though. It is a lot to ask, of a horse with just three ‘strolls’ under his belt, to take in the Derby and the Preakness. Perhaps it would have made more sense to give him a break, but he is here, and he looks very well.

Back to Street Sense. Last year’s juvenile champion had two prep races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. That was always the plan for Street Sense, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) by 10 lengths at Churchill Downs last autumn. He outclassed Circular Quay. It all went to plan that day - and again on the first Saturday of May.

Was it also the plan to win one prep by a nose, in course record time, and lose the next by a nose, in a race run so slowly the finish looked more like a quarter horse event?

Probably not, but combine those two experiences, and we had a horse that's well prepared for anything that might happen on the big day. He made an explosive move on the turn in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), when he appeared to be pulled forward by magnetism. It reminded us of Arazi in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Street Sense had made a similar move in the BC Juvenile. Make no mistake, this colt is for real. He fought off Any Given Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), beating him by a nose while conceding 2lbs. Any Given Saturday had fitness advantage.

Carl Nafzger had always planned to use the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) as the final prep for the Derby, and – though it was a falsely run trial – it was an good prep for Street Sense. This Blue Grass was run at a pedestrian pace, as they clocked ridiculously slow fractions. Take a look at this comparison with last year’s Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1):

Blue Grass: 26.1 – 51.4 – 1:16.6
Lane’s End: 23.2 – 46.6 – 1:11.8

Street Sense, even money favorite in the Blue Grass, was third in last year’s Lane’s End Futurity, 1 ¾ lengths behind Great Hunter. After that he turned the form around in great style at the Breeders’ Cup, and both colts had won well on their seasonal debut this year. As the Blue Grass was run some 25 lengths slower than the Lane’s End, it became a virtual sprint and, not just Street Sense but also Great Hunter, ran well under the circumstances. Great Hunter was hampered close home, and Street Sense was forced to switch in midstretch. He lost, but he has no idea he lost, as he looked to be in front both just before and just after the finishing line. Dominican, who has now won all his three starts on artifical surfaces, had a better burst of speed and got lucky on the day. Very lucky. Not that he isn’t a smart runner – his easy win at Turfway last month showed that he is pretty good – but it is unlikely that he would have won in a strongly run race.

If Calvin Borel had kicked on when they rounded the turn, Street Sense probably would have won the Blue Grass, but this was not his priority – obviously, Borel would not want to ride this race totally differently to the one coming up on May 5. Street Sense produced Globeform 130 when beating Circular Quay by 10 lengths at the Breeders’ Cup. That is an incredible rating, the highest given to any juvenile since Arazi. And the form of the race has worked out so well, one must believe that this colt is a Triple Crown winner.

Read his essay from the new Globeform Annual via the link below.

STREET SENSE (Street Cry) GF07s

HARD SPUN ran a great race at Churchill Downs, by far his best to date. He had impressed in a couple ofr his prep races but finishing a clear second in the Run for the Roses took him to a new level. One could see, as soon as they entered the stretch, that Street Sense had his measure – but Hard Spun ran on really gamely to the line, top be a clear second. Take Street Sense out and he would be a five-length winner of the Kentucky Derby? Not bad, for a colt most of us thought was a pure miler. He is more than that, he a very effective, relaxed front-runner who stays 1 ¼ miles. And almost certainly one who can improve a notch over 1 3/16 miles. That final sixteenth at Churchill is tough to swallow, and Hard Spun has a better chance here. Theoretically. Much was made of how it all opened up for Street Sense, but people seem to have lost sight of the fact that Hard Spun also had the ‘run of the race’. He was comfortable on the lead, not quite ignored by the others but not put under any serious pressure either. Will that happen again at Pimlico? Probably not. Curlin should be close to the pace, as should King of the Roxy (though he needs to be rated to have a shot) and Flying First Class will probably go to the lead. He is the speed of the speed and, as Xchanger is another whose best style is to be on the front, Hard Spun will not be left alone this time.

CURLIN, the runaway Arkansas Derby (G2) winner is a serious, serious racehorse – but he was lacing experience (and racing luck) at Churchill. Even though if he was beaten some way by Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby, Curlin is certainly one of the stars of 2007. After all, by May 1, he was standing with the best performance of the year among the 3-year-olds, and that after just three runs!

The Smart Strike colt had taken a big step up on his second start, when graduating from a breathtaking debut at Gulfstream Park to win the Rebel Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn on March 17, and he just kept on surpising. It was not surprising that a talented colt like this chestnut kept on winning – but, given his limited experience – it was surprising how he did it. One may think that the Arkansas Derby (G2) offered soft oppsition and yes, as the early leader Deadly Dealer failed to stay, perhaps it did. It was still a test for Curlin, however, he scored ten points at every junction, and he lost little in defeat in Louisville. Where he was probably quite shocked to find himself towards the second half of a 20-runner field, and racing some way off the pace. It say a lot for his strength and attitude that he picked up and ran on for third. Many horses with his profile would have given up.

At Oaklawn, he settled beautifully a couple of lengths behind Deadly Dealer, he was still perfectly balanced mentally when the outsider Slew by Slew moved past him as they were approaching the final turn, he accelerated in the style of a seasoned pro when Albarado asked him to make a move halfway through that turn, and he ran on like a horse that should stay 1 ¼ miles. As soon as he straightened for home, the race was all but over. Curlin won by 10 ½ lengths with a bit in hand, though Albarado did keep him up to his task.

It was a great, great learning experience and come Saturday he has had one more. His education is far from over, and Curlin strikes us as the danger to Street Sense. Mainly because of running styles, as he can sit just off the pace – be it strong or moderate – and come with a kick in the stretch. How about this preciction: Hard Spun leads into the straight, Curlin moves up to edge past him at the furlong pole, but Street Sense finishes best again and goes by him by the sixteenth pole. Sounds reasonable – but this is not a three horse race. Todd Pletcher saddles two, they both have some sort of a shot.

CIRCULAR QUAY appears to be Todd Pletcher’s best – and he is better than his run in the Derby suggests. This colt has plenty of experience, and he can run a big race. His win in the Louisiana Derby (G2) was very solid,. It came eight weeks before Churchill Downs, meaning that he is quite afresh horse – just like the favorite. He may well improve again, and he has a running style that makes him dangerous if the pace is strong. Circular Quay will probably be dropped in behind the field, and try to come with a late run through the final quarter mile. Given a clean run, he could well hit the board.

He impressed as he came from last to first at the Fair Grounds in March, to gain what looked quite an easy 2 ¼-length win over the local hope Ketchikan - who had set solid fractions (though racing well in hand) leading Liquidity, who faded tamely and ran well below his true form. Circular Quay was nearly back to his best – perhaps we should say he was back to his best, and there seems to be more to come from the Thunder Gulch colt.

For a full analysis to his juvenile career, plus pedigree and pedigree notes, please download his Globeform Annual essay via the link below.

CIRCULAR QUAY (Thunder Gulch) GF07s

KING OF THE ROXY is more about early speed, and though he has been rested and prepared for this task since the Santa Anita Derby (G1), he makes only limited appeal. He has to improve a great deal to be up with the best. Of course, this son of Johannesburg will improve, but will it happen over further than a mile? When you are beaten for stamina, by Tiago, over 9 furlongs at Santa Anita, you are likely to be in deep trouble against Street Sense over 9.5 furlongs at Pimlico.

Wayne Lukas is good enough to win a Preakness, but is his horse good enough? FLYING FIRST CLASS was visually impressive in the Derby Trial but that was over 7.5 furlongs and against much softer opposition. If he flashed his early speed again here, he will be doing the closers a big favor.



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