The winning time of 1:43.11 broke the track record for 1 1/16 miles by .02 seconds.
With regular rider Calvin Borel aboard, the stalking Street Sense crept up along the rail as Any Given Saturday, under John Velazquez. for trainer Todd Pletcher, took the lead in the lane on the outside. The two battled head-and-head to the wire with some brushing in close quarters as Street Sense gained a short advantage inside the eighth pole. Any Given Saturday refused to yield, fighting back to even terms while coming up just short in a valiant effort from both colts.
"He's been off for so long, four and a half months," Borel noted. "We had to start somewhere, and this seemed like the best place to start. Believe you me, he's 20 lengths better than he ran today."
Carl Nafzger trains Street Sense, who was last seen making a laugher of last fall's Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), winning by 10 lengths at Churchill Downs. That capped a season in which the Kentucky homebred son of Street Cry--Bedazzle (Dixieland Band) won two of five starts and was a clear-cut Eclipse Award winner as the nation's best 2-year-old male after his dazzling Breeders' Cup performance.
"At the head of the lane, I was relieved because I knew me and Todd (Pletcher) would have a hell of a race,” Nafzger said. "My colt was a little fresh today. Todd’s done an unbelievable job with his colt, and he’s in great form.”
Nafzger has said he plans to give Street Sense just one more start before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) -- the April 14 Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) at Keeneland.
“Are you kidding? We’re going to the Bluegrass and Derby!” Nafzger exclaimed after the race.
The last Derby winner with just two starts at 3 was Sunny's Halo in 1983. Before that it was Jet's Pilot in 1947. Street Sense also would be attempting to break a Breeders' Cup jinx - no Juvenile winner has gone on to take the Derby.
Nafzger, though, is quite familiar with the Derby. He won it in 1990 with Unbridled.
One thing is for certain -- the champ got plenty out of his first prep.
Street Sense carried top weight of 122 pounds, two more than Any Given Saturday. He settled in fourth as the outsiders All I Can Get and Most Distinguished led through fractions of :23 2/5, :47 2/5 and 1:12. Any Given Saturday, the Sam F. Davis winner over the track one month ago, was poised on the outside throughout, turning on the pressure after Most Distinguished inherited the lead from the tiring All I Can Get. That set up the all-out finish the crowd came to see.
Delightful Kiss, who broke slowly for Jeffrey Sanchez, rallied belatedly for third by two lengths over Most Distinguished, more than six lengths behind.
The dark bay Street Sense increased his earnings to $1,358,200 while paying $4.40, $2.40, and $2.10 as the 6-5 second choice. Any Given Saturday, the Todd Pletcher trainee still seeking his first graded stakes win, returned $2.20 and $2.10 while completing a $6.80 exacta. Delightful Kiss, trained by Pete Anderson, was $2.10 to show.
The Nick Zito-conditioned Most Distinguished was followed by All I Can Get, Optimistic Steve, and Lisselan Muse.