After winning Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga, Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense is probably only one victory short of "Horse of the Year" honors and trainer Carl Nafzger sees no reason the colt can't deliver.
"This horse can do anything," Nafzger said after Street Sense bested longshot Grasshopper by 1/2 length in the Travers. "Heck, he's been in my barn for 16 months and he's still running."
Referring to some of the other superstars he's trained, Nafzger elaborated Sunday morning: "Unbridled was great; Banshee (Breeze), Vicar, Unshaded were good, unbelievable horses, but I’ve never had anything like this horse."
The Kentucky-bred son of Street Cry had to do a little running in the stretch run of the Travers to get by a stubborn Grasshopper, which got quickly to the lead and set a sensible pace. When Calvin Borel brought Street Sense alongside to challenge, Grasshopper and jockey Robby Albarado dug right in and fought back. It was well into the final 16th that the outcome was clear.
Helsinki came from the back of a seven-horse field to finish third as the 1 1/4-mile Travers went in 2:02.69.
Nafzger said he will give Street Sense one prep for the Oct. 27 Breeders's Cup Classic. The four options are the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 20, the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs on Sept .22, the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 22, or the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 29.
"We'll look at all of them," Nafzger said. "But let's enjoy this one. The Classic will be where we try to go."
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Classic:
-- Hard Spun, a hard-used competitor in the Triple Crown races this spring, rebounded with a vengeance when shortened up to 7 furlongs for Saturday's $250,000 King's Bishop Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. After pressing the pace to the turn, the Danzig colt surged to the front at the three-eighths pole, turned back a challenge from First Defence and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. E Z Warrior finished third. Hard Spun, with Mario Pino up for trainer Larry Jones, finished in 1:22.34.
"He got to loafing when he made the lead, and I started to worry," Pino said. “As soon as he felt First Defence next to him, he switched leads and his class came out. That horse made a quick run at him, and it took him a little bit to get going turning for home, but once he leveled off, he went to the wire with his ears up."
Added Jones, " We’re still looking for the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Oct. 27, Monmouth Park). We decided to go into it gaining distance. We know he can get a mile and a quarter. We’ll look for a mile or mile and an eighth race between now and the Classic."
In other weekend racing with potential impact on the Oct. 26-27 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Monmouth Park:
$3 million John Deere Turf
-- After Market, the 2-5 favorite, survived the late rush of Runaway Dancer to win Sunday's $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by 3/4 length. Spring House was just a nose farther back in third, Toasted another nose back in fourth and Atlando another nose back in fifth. After Market, a 4-year-old son of Storm Cat, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:13.01 under Alex Solis. The victory vindicated trainer John Shirreffs' decision to scratch After Market from the Arlington Million two weeks earlier after heavy rain in the Chicago area. After Market has eight wins from 12 starts.
"He gives you confidence," Solis said. "We only had two weeks to get ready for this race. He had that ship to Chicago then he had to come back and start over again for a different thing. But he handled it and he handled it great. He's a great horse. There's no doubt about that."
-- Last Answer took the lead early in Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine and held on to win by 3/4 length over Cloudy's Knight. The odds-on favorite, Sky Conquerer, was a head farther back in third. Last Answer, a 7-year-old Langfuhr gelding, ran the 12 furlongs on yielding turf in 2:31.25 with Emile Ramsammy aboard. The major players in Sunday's race are expected to continue contesting Canadian turf routes.
$2 million NetJets Mile (turf)
Shakis made his move to the leaders on the turn for home in Saturday's $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga, then had to wait for room on the inside before he could get through. Shown a little daylight, the 7-year-old, Irish-bred son of Machiavellian spurted through and went on to win by 3/4 length over Big Prairie, with Drum Major third. The favorite, Cosmonaut, finished a fading fifth. Shakis, under Alan Garcia, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:45.33. That topped the course record set by Tentam in 1973.
"I was happy he was willing," said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, "and he had plenty to get through on the inside. I just didn't think he would get the 11 furlongs last time (in the Bowling Green). We'll keep him at 8 or 9 furlongs."
$1 million Filly & Mare Sprint (new race)
-- La Traviata remained undefeated in three career starts by winning Saturday's $100,000 Victory Ride for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga by 9 1/4 lengths. The Johannesburg filly was quickly in front after a stumbling start and wasn't challenged. Half Time Crown, at 54-1, finished second and Appealing Zophie was third.
"There’s nothing much to say; she’s unbelievable," said winning trainer Patrick Biancone. "Today, she took the lead and relaxed. She was waiting for the ones to catch up to her. The plan is to do what we have done and that plan is to go the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint."
-- Maryfield shipped in from California to win Sunday's $250,000 Ballerina Breeders' Cup at Saratoga at odds of 16-1, besting Baroness Thatcher by a head bob on the wire. With Elvis Trujillo up, the 6-year-old, Canadian-bred Elusive Quality mare saved ground early, swung four-wide to challenge for the lead and battled to the wire with Baroness Thatcher. Final time for the 7 furlongs was 1:22 3/5. Owner Mark Gorman said he expects Maryfield to go directly from the Ballerina to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
$2 million Emirates Airlines Filly & Mare Turf
Quite a Bride went right to the front in Saturday's $100,000 Ellis Park Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes for fillies and mares, survived some pressure and then opened up at the end to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Quiet Royal. Rich in Spirit finished third. Quite a Bride, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Stormy Atlantic, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.76. Miguel Mena rode for trainer Bill Mott.
$2 million Emirates Airline Distaff
-- Miss Shop came from last of six to win Friday's $400,000 Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga, opening up in the stretch run to get home 3 lengths ahead of runner-up Unbridled Belle. Indian Vale was third. Miss Shop, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Deputy Minister, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:03.48 with Javier Castellano in the irons for trainer H. Allen Jerkens.
"I didn't know if she could go this far," Jerkens admitted. "She has never shown that she could go that far." Now, he said, "You have to think about the Breeders' Cup Distaff. They say Monmouth Park doesn't suit come-from-behind horses. I guarantee someone will come from behind some day."
-- Hystericalady went right to the front in Saturday's $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park, drew clear when asked by jockey Eddie Castro and won by 6 1/4 lengths over Lexi Star. India finished third. Hystericalady, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Distorted Humor, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:41.85.
"I knew she was fast," said Castro. "I just wanted to get her out there and get her to relax early on. She did just that. She settled down nicely and when we turned for home, she had plenty left. She showed just how good she is today."
Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he was discouraged by her third-place finish in her last race, the Vanity at Hollywood Park. Now, he said, "We'll take her back to California now and come up with a training and racing regimen with the Breeders' Cup here in mind." Hystericalady won the Humana Distaff in May but hasn't won in two interim starts.
$2 million TVG Sprint
Piratesonthelake and In Summation dead-heated for the win in Saturday's $150,000 Arlington Sprint, with In Summation rallying late to catch his front-running rival. Off Duty was just a neck back in third as the 6 furlongs went in 1:09.14. Piratesonthelake went to the post at odds of nearly 7-1; In Summation as the odds-on favorite.
$2 million Grey Goose Juvenile Filles
-- Proud Spell stalked the pace in Saturday's $55,000 White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park, surged to the front when asked by jockey Gabriel Saez and drew off easily to win by 5 lengths over Extra Sexy Psychic. Tusculum Rd finished third. Proud Spell, a Kentucky-bred miss by Proud Citizen, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.15.
-- Pyriteville led from the start and went on to win Saturday's $50,000 Miss Ohio Stakes at Thistledown by 2 lengths over Nakagawa. Pyrite Gem, a stablemate of the winner, finished third. Pyriteville, an Ohio-bred daughter of Evansville Slew, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12.34 under Victor Urieta-Moran.
-- Judy Faye set the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Iowa Sorority Stakes for state-breds at Prairie Meadows, then got clear in the stretch to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Sweet Bonnie. Bitsy's Blessing was third. Judy Faye, a daughter of Sharkey, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.64 with Carlos Montalvo up.
$2 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Bear Holiday chased down Stuck in Traffic in deep stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Silver Deputy Stakes at Woodbine. Bear Holiday, a Kentucky-bred colt by Harlan's Holiday, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:17.32 under Jerry Baird. The victory was the third straight for Bear Holiday.
"He comes to a point where he knows how to win," said Baird. "He nailed him right there at the end. I was just there to guide him around."
-- Maya's Storm blew away seven rivals in Saturday's $65,000 Iowa Cradle Stakes for state-breds, winning by 7 1/2 lengths over Kate's Main Man without being asked for much run. Abidon finished third. Maya's Storm, a Stormy Atlantic colt, was send to the post as the heavy odds-on favorite and finished 6 furlongs in 1:09.26 for jockey Richard Monterrey. Kelly Von Hemel trains the colt.
Bai and Bai, with Aaron Gryder up, caught pace-setting Star Voyager on the turn for home in Saturday's $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap for California-bred distaffers and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Spenditallbaby. Gentle Charmer was up for third. Bai and Bai, a 4-year-old Falstaff filly, ran the 1 mile on the infield grass course in 1:34.28.
"The pace scenario helped us," said winning trainer Craig Dollase. "Aaron (jockey Aaron Gryder) timed the ride just perfectly and she really exploded in the last part. We're going to enjoy this win and then we'll map out a plan. I'd love to get her a graded stakes win, so we'll look at that."
Le Cinquieme Essai led throughout in Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian) Play the King Stakes and held well to win by 3/4 length over Just Rushing Awesome Action was third. Le Cinquieme Essai, an 8-year-old, Ontario-bred gelding by Fastness, ran the 7 furlongs on "soft" turf in 1:26.28 under Steven Bahen. "He's as good as he's ever been," said Bahen of the 2002 Sovereign Award winner as Canada's top 3-year-old.
Essential Edge came from a pace-stalking trip to win Saturday's $75,000 Belle Geste Stakes for fillies and mares by 3 lengths over Count to Three. Becky Sharp was third. Essential Edge, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred daughter of Storm Cat, ran the 7 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:24.42 under Jono Jones.
Jack's Wild rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $100,000 California Turf Championship for state-breds. With Brice Blanc in the irons, the 5-year-old Lil Tyler gelding ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.32. Epic Power ran second all the way and Now Victory settled for third after leading most of the way.
Footprint stalked the early pace in Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) Canadian Derby, challenged for the lead on the second turn and then edged clear in deep stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Gandolf. Ookashada was third. Footprint, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Gold Case, ran the 1 3/8 miles on a fast track in 2:19.60 with Real Simard in the irons.
Monashee battled for the lead through much of Saturday's $100,000 City of Edmonton Distaff Handicap, opened a substantial lead heading into the stretch and won off by 1 1/2 lengths over Culpeper Moon. Dixietwostepper finished third. Monashee is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Wolf Power. She covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45 for David Wilson.
Red Hot N Gold rallied by the early leader to win Saturday's $65,000 Iowa Breeders' Derby by 3/4 lengths over Ghazi Up. Red Hot N Gold, a son of Gold Case, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.68.
Tejano's Oasis came from a pace-stalking trip to win Saturday's $65,000 Iowa Breeders' Oaks by 2 1/4 lengths over Irish Party. Money Tak was third, 6 lengths farther back. Tejano's Oasis, a daughter of Tejano Run, got the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:41.99.
Camela Carson cleared the leader on the first turn in Saturday's $75,000 Donna Reed Stakes for Iowa-bred fillies and mares and went on to win by 4 lengths over Thekatcamehome. Elite Lady was third. Camela Carson, a 5-year-old daughter of Lord Carson, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:41.22.
Won Won Wonder Why posted a huge upset in Saturday's $75,000 Ralph Hayes Stakes for Iowa-bred colts and geldings, rallying six-wide into the stretch and running down the leaders to win by 1 length. Mingo Mohawk was second and Gilded Leader finished third. The favorite, Sur Sandpit, led briefly and faded to finish fourth. Won Won Wonder Why, a 6-year-old gelding by Mercedes Won, got the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.64 under Richard Monterrey.