Though there are four more months left in the 2007 racing season, Street Sense's narrow victory in the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes (gr. I) is sure to provoke discussion of whether he has already done enough to sew up the 3-year-old championship.
With four wins and two seconds in six starts this year, the Jim Tafel-owned and Carl Nafzger-trained son of Street Cry has earned $2,880,000 this year. In addition to the Travers, his victories came in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II), and Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III). He has two grade I wins and a victory each at the grade II and grade III levels this year.
By comparison, at the same point in his championship 3-year-old season of 2006, Bernardini also had won two grade Is, one grade II, and one grade III. Like Street Sense, one of his grade I wins was in a spring classic – the Preakness – and he, too, had won the Jim Dandy and the Travers. The A.P. Indy colt completed his year and his career with success in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and a second to Horse of the Year Invasor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I).
A review of 3-year-old champions in recent history shows there is no clearcut path to Eclipse stardom. About the only consistent determinant is success in either the Derby, Preakness, or Belmont Stakes (gr. I). While late-season success – Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup, or Breeders’ Cup – has been achieved by some of the 3-year-old male champions over the last 10 years, racing during the second half of the year is not a prerequisite. After all, neither Smarty Jones nor Afleet Alex – the respective Eclipse Award winners of 2005 and 2005 – raced after the Belmont.
“I would say he has probably done enough at this stage,” Tom Robbins, vice president of racing at Del Mar Turf Club, said of Street Sense’s Eclipse Award chances. “Nothing is ever final until you get past the Classic. But after winning the Derby, Travers, and Jim Dandy – and we have some talented 3-year-olds this year --unless there is some lurking sensational performance by one of those other 3-year-olds in the Classic, he seems to be champion.”
Steve Haskin, senior correspondent for The Blood-Horse who has observed and written extensively on the 3-year-old racing scene, said the championship is Street Sense’s to lose. He believes Preakness winner Curlin and Haskell Invitational (gr. I) winner Any Given Saturday will have to turn in classic performances in the Breeders’ Cup to steal the crown.
“Right now, Street Sense is the champion 3-year-old, and it is up to the one of them to take it away from him,” Haskin said.
For example, if Any Given Saturday defeats older horses in the Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) Sept. 22, and then defeats Street Sense and Curlin in the Classic, he would be the likely champion. Similarly, if Curlin wins the Gold Cup over older horses and then wins the Classic, give it to him, Haskin said.
With Street Sense at the head of the class, he would not have to win the Classic, but could still be the Eclipse Award winner by running second or third to an older horse or another 3-year-old other than Curlin or Any Given Saturday, Haskin said. “He does not have to win the Classic, but one of the other 3-year-olds does,” he said.
In addition to the 3-year-old title, the sophomore class seems to be in a better-than-usual position to be represented by Horse of the Year, given the inconsistency in the older horse ranks this season, Haskin said.