Curlin, Hard Spun Take Over Center Stage
Street Sense’s trainer Carl Nafzger said the morning before announcing Street Sense’s withdrawal from the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), “I’m like a duck. I don’t care if we go to the stream; I don’t care if we go to the pond. Just show me which one we’re going to.”
They apparently went to the pond, because the stream is the one that runs.
“I told Churchill when they called, ‘Why the hell don’t we get a press conference going and just do it all at once and get it over with, because there’s going to be a thousand whys and why nots,’” Nafzger said on Wednesday. “This way I can explain the decision, and it’s not going to be hard. I can explain it right now.”
With his explanation already prepared the day before, Nafzger told the world on Thursday that, although Street Sense, with only four starts this year, came out of the Preakness (gr. I) in great shape, he and owner James B. Tafel feel the Travers (gr. I) is their priority, and they do not want to compromise their chances by running in the
So, while Street Sense is paddling in the pond on June 9, Curlin and Hard Spun will be splashing around in the stream, with Curlin looking to solidify his claim as the top 3-year-old in the country and frontrunner for the Eclipse Award.
Discussing Street Sense’s departure, Curlin’s trainer Steve Asmussen said on a national teleconference Thursday, “My position might be, be careful what I wish for. I was thinking that he was going to show up, and I’m only finding out now that he’s not. I was fully prepared to run against him, as well as Hard Spun. With him being as a good horse as he is I think I’d rather have met him at
Larry Jones, trainer of Hard Spun, is happy not having to deal with Street Sense. “I thought it was very kind of Carl to take it easy on us,” he said. “Carl mentioned earlier that there was no longer an incentive to run in all three races.”
Asmussen, who has mixed feelings about the
“I would like to see him on his feet and run the race he did in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II). He could have been on the lead in that if he wanted. The
Asmussen said all the focus now is on the
Jones said that replacing Mario Pino for Garrett Gomez was a difficult decision, but one he and owner Rick Porter felt had to be made. “Garrett rides
“Mario and I are very close friends, and when it was time to break the news to him, of course I did the manly thing and told his agent, and said, ‘Now you go tell him.’ The things is, the night before the Preakness were at Mario and (wife) Christina’s house for supper. So, without a doubt it was a very hard decision to make. But Mario being the gentleman he is, said, ‘Larry, don’t worry about it. We understand and we thank you for the opportunity to be in the
Without Street Sense, Jones feels it will change the way they look at the race, but not change their strategy.. “Hopefully, we won’t have to ride as close to the rail and keep worrying about having to get a new coat of aluminum on Belmont’s rail when everything’s all done,” he said. “We can kind of be looking a little more to our outside than having to worry about that inside constantly. But with my horse, it’s really not going to affect his him or his style a lot. He’ll be forwardly placed as always, and even without Street Sense you still have to worry about holding off Curlin and the others, so it’s not going to change it a lot for us.”
Jones couldn’t be happier with the way Hard Spun is coming into the
Jones said if Curlin is going to be vulnerable in any way, it could be running a mile and a half. “I said two months ago, that six months from that time we could very well be hailing Curlin as a super horse,” he said. “I feel like he has that potential. He’s a very, very special horse to have reached the plateau of racing he has reached in such a short amount of time. And he could very well continue to improve. The mile and a half, maybe that’s not where he’s going to improve the most. Pedigree-wise, he’s as well equipped as anybody, but he’s a big strong horse, and for those muscles to keep firing going a mile and a half, you never know. He may very well do it, and if he does, I take my hat off to him. But if he does become muscle fatigued it would be understandable.”
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