Precedent on Street Sense's side

Posted: August 25, 2007

Since a million bucks doesn't buy what it used to, and the next-best 3-year-old on today's outstanding card at Saratoga is running 45 minutes earlier, it isn't surprising that Street Sense will be the overwhelming favorite in the Travers Stakes.

The Kentucky Derby winner will likely be 1-2 or even less to defeat six opponents in the 138th running of the classic at 11/4 miles.

Trained by the masterful Carl Nafzger and ridden by Calvin Borel, Street Sense offers few if any detractions while attempting to become the seventh consecutive odds-on favorite to capture the $1 million, Grade I Travers, which has a post time of 5:40 p.m. (ESPN, 4-6 p.m.)

Along with Bernardini, who paid $2.70 as last year's Travers winner, the other successes as odds-on favorites were Easy Goer in 1989, Holy Bull in 1994, Thunder Gulch in 1995, Point Given in 2001, and Medaglia d'Oro in 2002.

Street Sense, who has won five of 10 starts and $3.4 million, was beaten by a head by Curlin in the Preakness before taking the Jim Dandy in decisive style on July 29.

That gives the son of Street Cry a victory at today's distance and a race over the track. In addition, he will not be spotting weight to his opponents this time as he did in the Jim Dandy, as all runners carry 126 pounds in the Travers.

Grasshopper, whose connections had considered the Labor Day running of the Pennsylvania Derby, changed the target after an impressive romp by their colt at the Spa on July 30.

He appears to have the best chance at an upset. Although competing in a stake for the first time, Grasshopper is showing rapid development and obviously likes the course.

Robby Albarado, who rode Curlin in the Preakness, will be aboard Grasshopper for trainer Neil Howard.

The other pair of key contenders, C P West and Sightseeing, came close to Street Sense in the Jim Dandy but will need further improvement to beat last year's 2-year-old champion. Loose Leaf, For You Reppo, and Helsinki complete the field.

A more alluring wagering race is the $250,000, Grade I King's Bishop at seven furlongs, run just before the Travers as the eighth race on a 12-race program that begins at 12:45 p.m.

Hard Spun, owned by Wilmington's Rick Porter and bred in Malvern by the Brushwood Stable, will cut back to a sprint after seven consecutive two-turn tests.

The son of Danzig finished second in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness, and fourth in the Belmont Stakes before a runner-up finish in the Haskell Invitational 20 days ago.

The King's Bishop attracted 11 starters, with Hard Spun, who is unbeaten sprinting, the likely favorite.

But formidable runners such as Teuflesberg, King of the Roxy, and First Defence will also receive strong backing. Longley, a Delaware invader who suffered a terrible trip in the Barbaro Stakes last month, deserves long-shot recognition.

"I worked Hard Spun last Sunday," completing a half-mile in 47 seconds at Delaware Park, "and he was really sharp, he went great," rider Mario Pino said yesterday. "When he works good, he runs good."

Pino was referring to Hard Spun's rapid work in 57 and change before the Kentucky Derby, a move that was widely criticized as too fast too close to the race.

"There's always a question mark going long, then backing up to seven furlongs," Pino said. "But he's naturally quick, and he relaxed well in the Haskell. He's learned to chill out. Hopefully, I'll get him in a good spot. It's a big field. If I'm in front, at least I'll be out of traffic."

Pino, 47, rode in his first Kentucky Derby this year, and with Hard Spun still being pointed by trainer Larry Jones to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park, it would also be the veteran rider's first Breeders' Cup mount.

"I've had great opportunities this year," Pino said.

Pino plans to ride on opening day at the new Presque Isle Downs in Erie, which opens next Saturday, with huge purses fueled by slot-machine revenue.

He also plans to ride there on Thursdays and Fridays during the 25-card meet, dark days at Delaware Park, where he is currently competing.

Pennsylvania Derby. Live racing will resume at Philadelphia Park next Saturday, with the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby set for Labor Day.

A full field is expected for the 11/8-mile, Grade II test.

Those runners include the first three finishers from the West Virginia Derby: Zanjero, Bwana Bull and Moyer's Pond. Todd Pletcher will send out Cowtown Cat, the Gotham and Illinois Derby winner.

Other probables are Haskell pacesetter Cable Boy, Xchanger, Slew's Tizzy, Past the Point, Imawildandcrazyguy, Timber Reserve, and Get Serious.

Capote euthanized. Capote, the 1986 juvenile champion, was euthanized yesterday at the age of 23 at the Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky. A son of the great Seattle Slew, Capote won the 1986 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and sired 1996 juvenile champion Boston Harbor along with Grade I winners Agincourt, Capadiva, Capote Belle and Matty G.


Big Day at the Spa

Here are the fields for today's two big races for 3-year-olds at Saratoga Race Course, which will be televised live on ESPN starting at 4 p.m.

$250,000 King's Bishop Stakes

Race eight. Post time: 4:55 p.m. 7 furlongs. Grade I.

1. E Z Warrior       David Flores       Bob Baffert         6-1

2. Spin Master       Garrett Gomez    Dale Romans      12-1

3. Hard Spun       Mario Pino          Larry Jones       3-1

4. Pauillac          Julien Leparoux    Pat Biancone      30-1

5. Longley         John Velazquez    Graham Motion    20-1

6. Forty Grams       Edgar Prado      Steve Asmussen   15-1

7. Teuflesberg       Robby Albarado    Jamie Sanders      7-2

8. Most Distinguished Rafael Bejarano Nick Zito          5-1

9. First Defence       Javier Castellano   Bobby Frankel      6-1

10. Bold Start       Kent Desormeaux Ken McPeek      30-1

11. King of the Roxy Ramon Dominguez Todd Pletcher    10-1

$1 million Travers Stakes

Race nine. Post time: 5:40 p.m. 11/4 miles. Grade I.

1. Helsinki      Julien Leparoux       Nick Zito            20-1

2. C P West       Cornelio Velasquez    Nick Zito            5-1

3. For You Reppo Garrett Gomez       Helen Pitts         20-1

4. Street Sense    Calvin Borel          Carl Nafzger       3-5

5. Grasshopper    Robby Albarado       Neil Howard       8-1

6. Loose Leaf    Kent Desormeaux    Ken McPeek       12-1

7. Sightseeing    Edgar Prado         Shug McGaughey 6-1


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

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