Three horses go off today as Derby hopefuls

Posted: March 17, 2007

One of the trio hasn't competed since November, and the other two have three starts between them.

But they all are considered serious hopefuls for the May 5 running of the Kentucky Derby.

Street Sense, idle since smashing 13 opponents in last season's Breeders' Cup Juvenile by 10 lengths, heads today's $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) at 11/16 miles for trainer Carl Nafzger, who saddled Unbridled to capture the 1990 Kentucky Derby.

At Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., Flying First Class and Curlin face off in the $300,000 Rebel Stakes (Grade III), won in 2004 by local legend Smarty Jones.

Street Sense, to be ridden again by Calvin Borel, rallied from 13th to win the Juvenile at 15-1 odds.

While his backers noted his powerful rally and wide margin of victory, his detractors believe that a fast rail that day at Churchill Downs contributed greatly to his victory.

Todd Pletcher, whose stable boasts more Derby contenders than any other, offers the key threat to Street Sense in Any Given Saturday, with regular rider John Velazquez aboard.

Bought as a yearling for $1.1 million, Any Given Saturday holds the advantage of a race over the track, having won the Sam Davis in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 17.

D. Wayne Lukas will seek his fifth Kentucky Derby score this season and hopes that Flying First Class lives up to his reviews after an awesome maiden romp at Oaklawn in February. His only prior start was a runner-up finish at Turfway Park in September.

A son of the lightly raced Perfect Mandate, also trained by Lukas, Flying First Class romped by eight lengths in 1 minute, 94/5 seconds for the six furlongs. Second-finisher Vista Moon won his next start easily.

Edgar Prado is flying in from Florida to accept the mount on Flying First Class, which makes him even more formidable.

Few 3-year-olds have captured their debuts more impressively than Curlin, a 123/4-length winner at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3.

The son of Smart Strike (by Mr. Prospector) completed the seven furlongs in 1:221/5 and will have Robbie Albarado aboard in his first test of stamina in the 11/16-mile test.

San Felipe at Santa Anita. Television icon Merv Griffin believed that he had a Kentucky Derby contender after his Stevie Wonderboy took the 2005 Juvenile, but the colt got injured and missed the event.

Griffin may have another prospect in Cobalt Blue, who battles Air Commander for favorite in the $250,000 (Grade II) San Felipe. Doug O'Neill trains Cobalt Blue and Victor Espinoza will ride.

Control System tested. After a pair of powerful scores at Philadelphia Park, Control System will tackle classy company in today's $100,000 Cicada (Grade III) at Aqueduct.

Bred by Renee Nodine near Campbelltown, Pa., and owned in a partnership with Tom McClay and Harry Nye, Control System faces a tough group that includes Golden Dreamer, Five Star Daydream, Hungarian Boatbaby, and the Philadelphia Park-based Special Dream.

Julien Pimentel rides the daughter of Lion Hearted for trainer Mike Trombetta.

Hard Spun gets ready. Owned by Wilmington native Rick Porter, Hard Spun passed on today's Rebel Stakes after a disappointing fourth-place finish as the heavy favorite in the Southwest Stakes.

The son of Danzig, who won his first four starts, including victories at Delaware and Philadelphia Park, worked a half-mile in 471/5 seconds Wednesday at Turfway Park in preparation for the $500,000 Lane's End (Grade II) next Saturday.

Trainer Larry Jones blamed Hard Spun's Oaklawn defeat on a wide trip against a rail-favoring bias and said the colt never showed a fondness for the surface in Hot Springs, Ark.

Jones said he was surprised at how quickly people jumped on the Hard Spun bandwagon, but he attributed it to the success of Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex and Barbaro.

"I think that anybody who was on the bandwagon then shouldn't jump off after one losing race. I just think it's a case that he simply didn't get the trip and didn't like that track," he said.

Black returning. Tony Black, the leading jockey in the history of Philadelphia Park, is likely to return to the saddle in mid-April after being sidelined for five months.

"My horse clipped heels in the stretch on Nov. 4 and I fell, and I broke three vertebrae and two ribs," the 55-year-old Black said yesterday.

"It'll be a short comeback," Black noted. "I'm absolutely down to my last couple of years and I want to make sure I go out on a positive note."

Barbaro's brother named. The yearling full brother to last year's ill-fated Kentucky Derby winner has been named Nicanor. Like Barbaro, the name comes from a painting that includes hounds in the home of owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson.

Vineland off-track betting. The first of 15 projected off-track betting sites slated for New Jersey will open at 1332 S. Delsea Dr. on March 30.

The parlor had been expected to open this week but was delayed by construction.

An off-track site in Woodbridge will open this summer, and another in Toms River is scheduled for a fall opening.


Road to the Kentucky Derby

Here are the fields for today's three prep races (ESPN, 7-8 p.m., replays on ntra.com). ESPN also will show last week's Gotham Stakes. The $600,000 WinStar Derby will be run tomorrow (7:45 p.m. post) at Sunland Park (ESPNews). The Tampa Bay and WinStar Derbies can be viewed live on espn.com (click on live horse racing, then specific racetrack).

Oaklawn Park, Race 10, estimated post time: 7:04 p.m.

Grade III, 11/16 miles.

PP Horse                Trainer          Jockey       Weight   Odds

1 Wannabeinclued       Cecil Borel      Johnson         115 12-1

2 Flying First Class       Lukas            E. Prado         115    2-1

3 Sumac                Hall            Doocy         117    30-1

4 Teuflesberg          Sanders          S. Elliott         122    9-2

5 U D Ghetto             Reinstedler      Thompson       119   15-1

6 Officer Rocket       Holthus         Quinonez       119   9-2

7 Xchanger             Schuman      Jacinto         117    10-1

8 Curlin                Asmussen      R. Albarado    115   5-2

9 Going Ballistic       Von Hemel      Berry            119    15-1

Santa Anita Park, Race 9, estimated post time: 7:41 p.m. Grade II, 11/16 miles.

PP Horse                Trainer          Jockey       Weight    Odds

1 Tap It Light          O'Neill         M. Baze         116    20-1

2 Cobalt Blue          O'Neill         V. Espinoza       116   9-5

3 Dee Rain             Becerra         Potts             116   12-1

4 Air Commander       Baffert         Gomez          116   8-5

5 Grapelli             Pletcher         Migliore          116   3-1

6 Level Red             Hofmans      Gryder          116   4-1

Tampa Bay Downs, Race 12, estimated post time: 5:45 p.m.

Grade III, 11/16 miles. (Tape delay on ESPN.) Live on espn.com, go to live racing.

PP Horse                Trainer          Jockey       Weight   Odds

1 Optimistic Steve       Zito            Lezcano         116   15-1

2 Street Sense          Nafzger         Borel             122   4-5

3 All I Can Get          Bennett         L.Gonzalez       116   8-1

4 Any Given Saturday    Pletcher         J. Velazquez    120   9-5

5 Most Distinguished    Zito            Centeno       116   15-1

6 Lisselan Muse          Nazareth      E.Jurado       116   30-1

7 Delightful Kiss       Anderson      J.Sanchez       116   12-1


Contact staff writer Craig Donnelly at 215-854-2839 or cdonnelly@phillynews.com.

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