Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Starting to Make Perfect Sense
There was one disappointing aspect of Tuesday morning’s brief activity at Churchill Downs. With 11 days still left until the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), it would come as a major surprise – no, make that a shock – if any horse turns in a more impressive workout than Street Sense’s five-furlong masterpiece.
There have been some excellent works over the past couple of days at Keeneland, but Street Sense’s five-furlong breeze in a bullet :59 flat under jockey Calvin Borel was right up there with Smarty Jones and Barbaro as the best Derby works I have ever seen.
Trainer Carl Nafzger stood on the old clocker’s stand near the five-eighths pole before the work and told a couple of reporters and TV newsmen, “To save questions afterward, it was a perfect work. It was just what we wanted.”
Nafzger’s whimsical comment actually proved to be right on. Street Sense “worked perfect.” In fact, there was not a single aspect of it that wasn’t perfect.
Walking to the track, the son of Street Cry stopped between each barn to look around and take in all the morning’s activities. He has an intelligent head and a big eye and is interested in everything around him. It was this inquisitive nature that no doubt caused him to start gawking at the crowded Keeneland grandstand and apron (which, unlike other tracks, is built at an angle) and lose focus turning for home in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).
Once on the track, he was all business, prancing along vigorously as he backed up toward the six-furlong pole. Although he officially broke off at the five-eighths pole, he was moving along at a good clip by the time he turned into the backstretch. Some observers even thought he was working six furlongs.
The clockers caught him rattling off fractions of :12 2/5, :24 2/5, and :36 2/5. That’s when things started getting interesting. Coming to the quarter pole, he cut the corner with great agility. You don’t see many horses moving at that kind of clip who are able to hug the rail that tightly, and one can see how he was able to demolish his opponents in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) by charging through on the inside or get such a quick jump on Any Given Saturday in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III).
After changing leads right on cue, he kept motoring down the stretch, just waiting for Borel to pull the trigger. All Borel did was lower himself ever so slightly in the saddle passing the eighth pole, and that was all Street Sense needed to take charge from there. The acceleration was instant as he dropped his head and shoulder and quickly shifted into high gear. It was as quick an acceleration as you’ll ever see in a work. Still throwing his ears back and forth, Street Sense continued to build up momentum and was reaching out beautifully with powerful strides in the final furlong.
Borel stood up in the saddle after the wire, but Street Sense was far from finished. He continued to roll on his own, again hugging the rail, not only going into the clubhouse turn, but into the backstretch. He didn’t get pulled up until well past the five-furlong pole.
The final splits and gallop-out came as no surprise to anyone watching the work. Street Sense went his final quarter in :22 3/5 and final eighth in :11 1/5 before “galloping” out another eighth in :12 2/5 to cover the six furlongs in 1:11 2/5. And believe it or not, the most impressive aspect of the work still hadn’t come. It came when Street Street walked off the track, and, amazingly, was not blowing even in the slightest. He barely took a deep breath as he walked calmly back to the barn as if he had been out for a leisurely morning stroll.
Nafzger and Borel didn’t need to say much to each other. The high-five Nafzger gave to the jockey as he walked the horse back said it all.
This may sound like someone getting a bit carried away, but you had to be there. If you’re watching Derby works for two weeks, this is what you’re hoping to see.
Street Sense has a great deal of class about him, and he has that typical His Majesty-Ribot look (his maternal third- and fourth-generation sires). His stride is extremely efficient and he gets down and generates a great deal of power. Barring any bad luck, which is always possible in the Derby, he should run a huge race on May 5 based off this work alone.
There’s going to be quite a lull over the next couple of days, with no works scheduled until later in the week. Stabled at Churchill Downs as of Tuesday are Street Sense, Curlin, Zanjero, Sam P., and Storm in May, along with two horses who need nothing short of a miracle to make the field based on graded earnings, Reporting For Duty and Delightful Kiss. Dominican and Sedgefield are due to van over from Keeneland on Thursday.
One trainer suddenly on the outside looking in is Jamie Sanders, who also is co-owner of Teuflesberg. Following last weekend’s action, one horse whose connections seemed adamant about not running in the Derby is now a definite, while another, equally as adamant is now a possibility. We’re talking about Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) winner Slew’s Tizzy and Federico Tesio winner Xchanger. With another recent addition Sedgefield, that leaves the hard-hitting Teuflesberg at No. 21 on the graded earnings list. A decision on Xchanger will not be made until Friday, so Sanders and her partners will have to sweat it out until then, as will the connections of Imawildandcrazyguy (No. 22) and Chelokee and Reporting For Duty (tied for No. 23).
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