The maiden Street Hero squeezed between horses to challenge for the lead and outfought Believe in Hope and Midshipman in deep stretch to win Oak Tree's $250,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Santa Anita Sept. 28, securing a berth in the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita Sept. 28.
The steadily improving Street Hero is bred, owned and trained by Myung Kwon Cho, a 66-year-old export businessman born in Seoul, South Korea.
At the suggestion of jockey Alex Solis, Cho added blinkers to Street Hero for the Norfolk following the Street Cry colt's narrow third-place finish behind Midshipman in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) Sept. 3.
“I can hardly talk, I’m so excited," Cho said. "I’m really happy today. This is the best day of my life. Down the stretch, my heart was pumping. This is my biggest win, and I’ve been training around 17 years.”
Cho said he has five horses in training.
“Yesterday, Palacio de Amor (owned and trained by Cho) was second in the (grade I Oak Leaf Stakes for 2-year-old fillies), but this one (Street Hero) is a grade I winner! I think I have to go (to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile). If I don’t go, the rider’s going to kill me.”
Street Hero, at odds of 6-1, stalked the leaders to the quarter pole and was in tight quarters coming off the final turn, driving through a narrow opening between horses to catch pacesetter Del Conte just past mid-stretch. Under some strong urging, Street Hero fought on to prevail gamely by three-quarters of a length in a frantic finish.
“I was in a tough position from the five-sixteenth (pole) to the top of the stretch," Solis said. "Finally, I had enough horse to get out. He’s still a little green. He’s still learning. I really liked him at Del Mar. Right away I noticed this horse could use blinkers and I told Mr. Cho. I told him, ‘We’re going to win the Norfolk.’ He was much better today and he’s just learning how to run.”
Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) winner Midshipman lost for the first time in three starts. The son of Unbridled's Song closed strongly under Tyler Baze from mid-pack while four wide in the stretch to defeat Believe in Hope, rallying along the inside for Jose Valdivia Jr., by a nose for second, with Del Conte just another nose behind in fourth. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile event was 1:42.12 on the new Pro-Ride racing surface.
“It was a good experience for him," said trainer Bob Baffert, trainer of Midshipman. "He was wide and lost a lot of ground, but he got beat by a good horse and he learned a lot today. I’d like to see him engaged with horses, but I think now he’ll know what he’s supposed to do. I’m happy with it. We’re disappointed, but we’re going on (to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile).”
Del Conte, also trained by Baffert, is scheduled to race next in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was using the Norfolk as a prep.
Darley Stable's Regal Ransom, the 7-5 favorite in the field of nine on the strength of an impressive first-out maiden win at Saratoga Aug. 25, pressed the pace for six furlongs and gave way, finishing eighth.
The Kentucky-bred Street Hero, out of the Summer Squall mare Squall Linda, earned $150,000 for the win, bumping his bankroll to $206,360. The bay colt has not been out of the money in five lifetime starts.
This would not be the first Breeders' Cup for Cho, who saddled Nationalore to finish third in the 1997 Juvenile and Critical Factor to finish third in the 1996 Juvenile Fillies. His Video Ranger, then trained by D. Wayne Lukas, ran second in the 1990 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and was later fourth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
Sent off as the third choice, Street Hero paid $14.20, $6.40 and $4, topping a $2 exacta worth $51.20. Midshipman returned $4.40 and $3.20 as the second choice. Jay Em Ess Stable's Believe in Hope, who showed much improvement for trainer Ron Ellis in his third start, was $5.60 to show.
Del Conte was followed by Silent Valor, Azul Leon, Tiger Blitz, Regal Ransom and Liturgical. Brushburn scratched.