In conjunction with Tom Hall's Throwback Thursday features in BloodHorse Daily, BloodHorse.com each Thursday will present corresponding race stories from the pages of the magazine.
This week is the race recap of 2002 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) won by Street Cry. The story, written by Lenny Shulman, carried the headline, "Street Song." The story ran in the June 22, 2002 issue of The Blood-Horse.
Up until this year, Street Cry did about as much passing as a grandmother driving a subcompact. Always in the wedding party but rarely the groom, Street Cry had obvious talent—he has never finished off the board in 11 career outings—yet his tendency to relax and hang once he got on or near the lead made you wonder if he'd ever properly use his ability.
But Street Cry is singing a different tune in this, his 4-year old campaign. First came an 8-1/2 length score in a Dubai stakes contest in February, and one month later a demolition of the $6-million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) field. Home-field advantage could still be pointed to by doubters, however, who waited to see if Street Cry could accomplish what horses like Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001) could not—a World Cup—Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. 1, $833,250) double.
On June 15, a Kentucky day as pretty as a song, Street Cry stamped himself as this spring's best older horse, making a mockery of the Foster field and drawing off by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:47.84 for the nine furlongs at Churchill Downs. Dollar Bill and Tenpins completed the placings, but you would have needed a wide-angle lens to see them in frame with the winner.
Street Cry, by Machiavellian out of the Troy mare Helen Street, is a homebred for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing operation. The Irish-bred looms a threat for the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr.I) on World Thoroughbred Championships Day in October. Because of the rich pot of the World Cup, Street Cry's earnings following the Foster exceed $5 million.
Trainer of record Saeed bin Suroor, absent from Essence of Dubai's effort in the Belmont Stakes (gr.I) in New York one week earlier, arrived in Kentucky two days before the Foster. "He was in very good form and ready to run," noted bin Suroor. "The way he looked before the race we thought he would show the same form as he had in the Dubai World Cup."
The betting public wasn't quite as sure. Congaree, who impressed everyone with his game thirds in last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (both gr. 1) and his awesome victory in the Swaps (gr.I), had looked just fine in his comeback race last month at Lone Star Park. Off nearly 10 months with a wrenched knee suffered in the Jim Dandy (gr.I), Congaree led every step of the way in the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) and was installed the 6-5 choice when the Foster gates sprung. Street Cry was at 2-1. Dollar Bill, the tough-luck horse from the 2001 Triple Crown, was getting buzz around the paddock and was 6-1, and Tenpins, under the wire first in six straight efforts, took action at 7-1.
Congaree didn't leave well from the rail, and a front-running gambit was out of the question. "He's not real athletic in the first jump," said his rider, Pat Day, "and I didn't want to push him." Tenpins made the lead with longshot Proper Man attending. Congaree sat third inside, but Jerry Bailey had Street Cry in perfect position fourth. Day was hoping his mount would relax and make a late run, but Congaree had other ideas, and rushed up at the second turn to take the lead. He was denied any breather, however, when Bailey drafted right behind him and slingshot past in no time.
It was over right then. Dollar Bill came widest from the back, but mounted no threat to the winner.
"He's been working lights out in New York," said Bailey. "I think he could be the best in the world right now. He never runs a bad race. He was eight-wide in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr.I) here and lost by a length and a half. He's had his problems and they've given him the proper amount of time, and he's well now and running like it. I know Congaree is a good horse, but this is a great horse."
Tom Albertrani, technically an assistant but the hands-on Godolphin trainer in New York, knew Street Cry had something to prove in the Foster. "It's hard to say whether they'll carry their form from Dubai until they come over here and prove it," he said. "There's always a doubt, because although he beat Sakhee in Dubai, the rest of that field wasn't as strong as the one he faced here today. It doesn't look like his lost anything off his prior two starts."
Albertrani said Street Cry remained in light training after the World Cup, then was given more to do when he arrived in New York a month ago. But the real advance has been gaining experience and maturity during races. "He used to have the tendency to ease up when he got to the lead," Albertrani said. "He does it in his works as well. We told Jerry that when he gets to the front too quickly he might relax, but Jerry said he never acted like that in Dubai. Same thing today. It's encouraging to see him run two like that, and he looks like he's going to be a nice horse for the future."
The immediate future could be the Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont or the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. 1), with the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar a target for late summer. Congaree, meantime, could be headed for a try on the grass.