While there won't be a Triple Crown winner again this year, there might be a classic rivalry taking shape.
When Curlin survived a stumbling start and then came along in the final strides to snatch victory from Street Sense in Saturday's Preakness Stakes, denying Street Sense a chance at the Triple Crown, it sparked memories of Affirmed vs. Alydar and Sunday Silence vs. Easy Goer.
Street Sense looked like a sure winner halfway down the stretch after catching Hard Spun, who got first run at the leaders. But Curlin, whose only loss in four previous starts was his third-place finish in the Derby, wasn't done.
Under a full head of steam, he ranged up on the outside and got under the wire first by a head.
"Heartbreaking, that's what it was," said Street Sense's hard-working trainer, Carl Nafzger. "We only needed a nose ... .We should have never let him come back and get us."
But Nafzger gave credit to winning trainer and jockey Steve Asmussen and Robbie Albarado.
"We don't know how good a horse this is," he added. "We have two good horses here. We might have an Alydar-Affirmed thing. Hard Spun -- we can't get rid of him, either."
Asmussen had some pretty strong ideas about how good Curlin is.
"This is the norm for him," he said. "In the Derby, we were third. Hats off to the winner. He deserves the credit for winning the Derby, just like Curlin deserves credit for winning the Preakness ... . It put him in. Now everybody feels about him the way we always have."
And as Curlin gains experience, the rivalry should gain new momentum.
Albarado said even in the Preakness, Curlin showed improvement.
"The first part of the race, he felt like a 2-year-old," the winning jockey said. "The last part of the race, he felt like a 5-year-old."
But the rematch might have to wait for the Travers or some other race down the road because Nafzger said he would "take some bets against" Street Sense running in the Belmont. "I don't have any animosity about Curlin beating me," he said. "I want to beat him the next time I run against him."
Hard Spun trainer Larry Jones said his charge is more likely to move along to the Belmont since his dam was a winner at the Belmont distance of 1 1/2 mile.
"As we said when we started, we had plans of running three races, all three of them. We'll see. This race sure doesn't make me think that we can't do it. We'll see in the next day or so and we'll make our plans," Jones said.
And the Belmont may have a "new shooter" of its own this year -- Sightseeing, a Phipps Stable homebred who used every foot of the Belmont Park stretch to win Sunday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes. Trainer Shug McGaughey has been applying his usual patient regimen to the Pulpit colt, who finished just 1/2 length behind Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Wood Memorial. But after his determined effort Sunday, McGaughey would not rule out a start in the Belmont for Sightseeing.
"Back at the Wood Memorial, just knowing the horse and where he was at mentally, I was thinking about the Jim Dandy," McGaughey said. "We'll see what happens. We're here and I'm sure the Phipps would love to run in the Belmont if they thought they had a legitimate chance."
In the Peter Pan, Sightseeing, with Edgar Prado up, sat comfortably off the lead, swung out into the stretch and wore down Prom Shoes to win by a nose. Fearless Vision was third as the 9 furlongs on a fast track went in 1:48.89.
"I felt," Prado said, "that when I turned him loose, he was going to explode. It took him more strides than I thought. He finally got into gear."
McGaughey agreed. "When he steps it up, he isn't going to have those two or three jumps. He'll learn. This will be good for him."
In other weekend racing, briefly:
Trainer Michael Matz had thought about running Chelokee in the Preakness but fell back to Plan B -- Saturday's inaugural running of the $100,000 Barbaro Stakes, honoring last year's Kentucky Derby winner, fatally injured in last year's Preakness. Matz also trained Barbaro, so he was "elated" when Chelokee came from off the pace to win the Barbaro. Silver Express was second and Zephyr Cat was third. Barbaro's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, made the winner's circle presentation. "Michael was tearing up," Gretchen Jackson said. "We've got such a wonderful relationship with him that I felt it just underlines it all. You deserve it. You're it."
Panty Raid saved all the ground in Friday's $250,000 Black Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, swung around the leaders at the top of the lane and went on to win by 1 length, holding off the late run of Winnng Point. Baroness Thatcher, the favorite, set the early pace and held on for third. The 9 furlongs took 1:50.07 with Edgar Prado up on the winning Include filly. Todd Pletcher, whose remarkable winter and early spring seems to have devolved down to ultimate success with distaffers, trains the winner. She now has three wins from five starts, although the Black Eyed Susan was her first added-money win. "She keeps coming and that's why I thought the mile and an eighth would suit her well," Pletcher said. "That's what makes the good ones. They can carry their speed over a longer distance of ground."
Remarkable News won Saturday's $250,000 Dixie Stakes by 3/4 length over Cosmonaut after avoiding a fall by pace-setting Mending Fences near the stretch turn. Outperformance finished third. Remarkable News, with Ramon Dominguez aboard for trainer Angel Penna Jr., finished in 1:46.36 over firm turf. Mending Fences suffered a fractured right front ankle and was euthanized. "He really didn't stumble. He just fell to the ground," Dominguez said of Mending Fences. "I couldn't have avoided him, even if I wanted to. I was very close to him but he didn't interfere with me." A trailing horse, Einsten, also fell, unseating his rider. Einstein and the two fallen jockeys escaped injury.
Flashy Bull dueled down the stretch with Hesanoldsalt in Saturday's $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap before winning by a head. With Alan Garcia up, the 4-year-old Holy Bull colt finished the 9 furlongs in 1:47.86, with Ryan's For Real third. Flashy Bull, 14th in last year's Kentucky Derby, now has three wins from four starts this year.
Diabolical equaled the track record in winning Saturday's $200,000 Emirates Airline Maryland Sprint Handicap. With Mario Pino in the irons, Diabolical battled through most of the race with Talent Search, then worked clear in the final sixteenth to win by 3/4 length, finishing in 1:09.16. Northern Wolf set the record in 1990. Diabolical, who ran eighth in last year's Preakness, is a son of Artax. "We had to win today," said part-owner Jeff Puglisi. "At 4-5, he'd better win. He's faced a lot of tough competition in his last two races. It's been one war after another."
Precious Kitten set a course record in winning Saturday's $100,000 Gallorette Handicap for fillies and mares, covering the 1 1/16 mile over firm turf in 1:40.32. The old record was set by Air Attack 16 years ago. A True Pussycat was second in the Gallorette and Tricks Pic third. Precious Kitten is a daughter of Catienus.
Street Magican caught runaway pace-setter Southwestern Heat in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes, survived some pumping and a brush with the rail, and still went on to win by 1 length. Southwestern Heat held second and Hobbitontherocks finished third. Street Magician, another son of Street Cry, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.97 with Rafael Bejarano up.
Heros Reward eclipsed the pace setters at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Baltimore City Turf Sprint and went on to win by 1 length over Bingobear. Mr. Mutter posted a late rally to finish third. Hero's Reward finished in 55.9 seconds under Edgar Prado.
Rolling Sea stalked the pace in Friday's $200,000 Allaire duPont Breeders' Cup Distaff Stakes, then moved to the lead and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Leah's Secret. The favorite, Kettleoneup, finished third, another 3/4 lengths back. Rolling Sea, a 4-year-old, Illinois-bred daughter of Sefapiano, is trained by Steve Asmussen. She finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.88.
Time's Mistress, a 7-1 outsider at the mutuels, surged to the lead in deep stretch in Friday's $125,000 Adena Stallions' Miss Preakness Stakes and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Silver Knockers. Your Flame in Me, the favorite, ran third. Time's Mistress, a daughter of Mr. Greeley, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.53 under Mark Guidry.
Unbridled Sidney, with Calvin Borel up, went right to the lead in Friday's 5-furlong, $95,000 The Very One Stakes for fillies and mares and held on well, winning by 3 lengths over Wild Berry, with Keep On Talking third. The final time of 55.77 seconds missed the course record by just 0.04 second.
Teammate sat right behind pace-setter Sugar Shake through the early furlongs of Saturday's $150,000 Shuvee Handicap for fillies and mares, came to challenge in the stretch and won by 1/2 length. With jockey Cornelio Velasquez up, the 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Indy finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:38.19. "I thought Cornelio did the best job he could," said winning trainer H. Allen Jerkens, who now has won the Shuvee five times. "He was trying not to be on the lead, but not too far back to let the other one get away. He said Teammate probably will go next in the Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 16.
Bear Now had things all her own way in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Selene Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. After tracking the pace, the Kentucky-bred Tiznow filly took off when asked by jockey Emile Ramsammy and won off by 8 lengths. Seskawea was the best of 11 rivals and Marietta finished third. The favorite, Palace Tier, finished eighth. Bear Now, trained by Reade Baker, went to the post at odds of 12-1 and finished the 1 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:43.73. Baker said the filly has been a new horse since he removed the blinkers. "When I had the blinkers on her, she wanted to stop ... .As soon as we took the blinkers off, she was a different horse. She ran well today."
Sahara Heat led seven rivals all the way around in Saturday's $150,000 Marine Stakes, beating Approval Rating home by 1 1/4 lengths. Angel of the House was third and the only Queen's Plate eligible steed in the race, Include Us, finished fifth. "We know he has some talent and he showed it today," said winning rider Fernando Jara of the winning A.P. Indy colt. Sahara Heat finished the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:46.47. The first two Plate preps were captured by horses trained by Sid Attard -- Like Mom Like Sons taking the Woodstock and Jiggs Coz the Queenston. Remaining preps for the $1 million Queen's Plate on June 24 are the Plate Trial on June 3 and the Victoria Park Stakes on June 10.
Worldly took the wide route around the early leaders in the stretch run of
Saturday's $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes and went on to win by 1/2 length over Silent Soul. Major Bozarth was another nose back in third. Worldly, also a winner in his first U.S. start on April 8, finished in 1:35.19 "He just loves to run," said winning rider Victor Espinoza. "He's got a lot of talent and he's improving in every race. His first (U.S.) race was good and now he's shown he can compete with the good horses."
In Sunday's $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial for 3-year-olds, Time to Get Even rallied down the stretch and just caught Principle Secret and win by a neck, providing David Flores with his 3,000th career win on a late pickup mount. Desert Code was third, another nose back. Time to Get Even, a Kentucky-bred colt by Stephen Got Even, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.91. Flores took the mount when Alex Bisono was injured earlier in the day. "I've seen many jockeys take a week or a lot of mounts to get over the number," Flores said. "But I was lucky to get over right away." Trainer Walther Solis said he bought Time to Get Even for $5,000 at a Keeneland sale. The colt now has won $102,620.
Spin Master, the favorite, won a three-way battle for the lead in Saturday's
$100,000 Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds, then sprinted away in the stretch run to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Demarcation. Run Alex Run, another in the early pace duel, survived to hold third. Spin Master, a son of Distorted Humor, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:08.30 under Miguel Mena. Spin Master, once a Triple Crown candidate, struggled earlier this year in Florida. "We really didn't think past this race in terms of where he'll go next," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "We'll probably sit down and map out two or three races for him. We still think he's one of the best 3-year-olds in the country."