Perch on a picnic table near a small barn in Clare Court and take a long look at this year’s Kentucky Derby winner.
Street Sense is a study in averages – not short, not tall, not long-backed, not close-coupled – fine frame, good muscle, nice bone, strong chest, the same as hundreds of other dark horses stabled at Saratoga this season. However, as Joe Palmer once wrote regarding the great Stymie, “As a result, of course, he is almost perfectly balanced, and maybe this is what makes him tick.”
The Carl Nafzger trainee is getting a bath, which he does not enjoy. In fact, bathing is his least favorite activity, probably because it involves standing still. He prefers to be a man in motion, always on the go. Even now, as a groom runs a hose over his nimble forelegs, the colt dances backward off the washing mats, tossing his head in irritation at the flowing water. He repeats this process so that his handler, Paul Rutherford, is constantly leading him forward and jiggling the shank and muttering “Stand up. Stand UP!”
The colt may stand up, but he never falls completely still. He swishes his tail, cranes his neck, pricks his ears, stomps a rear hoof. Each of these movements, however, maintains a definite purpose. With Street Sense, there are no mindless exhibitions of typical Thoroughbred flightiness – no spooking, shieing, balking, spinning, or rearing. Every action is deliberate, measured, from a sly nip at Rutherford’s sleeve to the placement of each fine hoof.
Street Sense has always known how good he is, and he'll set out to prove that this afternoon in the Jim Dandy (gr. I), his first start since losing the May 19 Preakness (gr. I) to Curlin by a nose.
This morning, the colt seems to be resting up for the approaching test. Stabled with other racehorses passing in full view on the Clare Court training track, he merely follows the action with a lucid eye. He knows this is not his time.
“He’s the most laid back horse when he needs to be. He’ll go out and just gallop and he’ll come home like, ‘This is all the boss man let me do today,’” says Nafzger, who watches the colt with a protective eye. “But, of course, he can also turn it on and run.”
This afternoon, the boss man says “go.