Early visitors to the stable area at Churchill Downs received a rare treat Sunday morning when Street Sense jogged a mile one day after winning the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
After trainer Carl Nafzger and his wife, Wanda, served up doughnuts and coffee to the assembled media horde as the sun rose over the Downs, the trainer escorted Street Sense to the track for his morning exercise regimen. Never mind that barely 12 hours before, the Street Cry colt had rallied from 19th in the 20-horse field to win the 1 ¼-mile classic. Most Derby winners walk or have light exercise the day after their victories.
“I just think it’s good for him and keeps him healthy,” Nafzger said of the rare move of galloping a Derby winner the day after the race.
Other than answering a lot of questions and receiving congratulations from passersby, Sunday morning after the Derby was business as usual for Nafzger, who previously won the 1990 Derby with Unbridled. The 65-year-old Nafzger has two wins from three Derby starters, the third being Vicar, who was 18th in 1999.
With regular exercise rider Mark Cutler aboard, Street Sense paused occasionally and took in his surroundings as he made his way to the track. Back at Barn 26, Nafzger informed Maryland Jockey Club chief executive officer Joe DeFrancis that Street Sense will be Baltimore bound for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
Street Sense will remain at Churchill Downs for his Preakness preperations and is expected to arrive at Pimlico May 16.
“We’re ready,” Nafzger told De Francis. Nafzger has saddled two Preakness starters in his long career, including second place finisher Unbridled in 1990.
Nafzger also would not engage in speculation about whether Street Sense, who had only two starts this year previous to the Derby and is a fresh horse, had the potential to sweep the Triple Crown of the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
“He’s got the pedigree and he’s got everything it takes to be a great horse,” Nafgzer said. “He runs like a great horse. Now there is only thing left. It’s up to him. The same thing that got us here will take us there.”
Second in his career debut, Street Sense broke his maiden at Arlington Park last August and then finished third, only 1 ¾ lengths behind the winner, in the Arlington-Washington Breeders’ Cup Futurity (gr. III). After a third-place effort in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland, the colt romped to a 10-length triumph in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
He was crowned champion 2-year-old male of 2006 and began his 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). Previous to the Derby, Street Sense was beaten a nose in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Nafzger, who steadfastly does not discuss how other horses fare in races against his horses, also would not speculate on the fact that the top five Derby finishers had workouts at Churchill Downs or that Street Sense and runner-up Hard Spun had prep races over the artificial Polytrack surface.
“The one thing about second-guessing is that we know the outcome,” said Nafzger, adding that some horses that ran poorly in the Derby had also run on artificial tracks prior to Saturday. “You can make scenarios any way you want to. I think artificial surfaces are great, but are they really what we want them to be? We won’t know for three years. We are on a learning curve—how to ride on it, how to train on it, and how to manage it.”
Nafzger said one of the positives of artificial surfaces is the ability to train over a non-frozen track in the winter, which is one reason it is being installed at the Skylight Training Center where some of his horses are based.
“It was a great Derby,” the good-natured Nafzger said of the previous day’s race. “I’m having fun. Nothing changed. Winning the Derby is the same. It never gets better and it never gets worse. You won the Derby.”