Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Recognition: Street Sense

As a two year old the race that was solely responsible for crowing him the leading Derby contender in 2007 was the 06 Breeders Cup Juvenile. Before that I had only seen one of his starts, where he ran into the dominating juvenile, Circular Quay and the winner of the race Great Hunter. At the time I was watching the intriguing closer Circular Quay who was at the time unbeaten, and sitting atop the Juvenile empire. It was in the Breeders Futurity Stakes, and this day both would lose. Great Hunter would be the winner spoiling Circular Quay's prep for the Juvenile. A good five lengths back would come Street Sense.

When I look at Street Sense I see tall and leggy, which give the impression of one that is not a very precocious horse, and takes a bit to find himself. Before the Futurity, Street Sense was still a fairly successful Juvenile, winning his maiden first asking, then running third in the Arlington Washington Futurity. So, in examining his record I see a horse that was good, still growing, and once he found out how to use those limbs of his, he would become a monster on the track.

Of course in 2006 I was still learning about racing, starting to understand and get the hang of things, but rarely did I look past anything that was put right in front of me. So, by the time Breeders Cup came around I like many overlooked Street Sense and went for the talented Circular Quay. This mistake quickly came back to bite many in the butt, for Street Sense not only won the Juvenile, he ran away with the race, as rail opened up like the red seas parting for Moses, Street Sense flew up, covering ground like a run away train. Even after he hit the front he never stopped, extending his lead to a jaw dropping, record breaking 10 lengths.

Later he was crown Eclipse Award Juvenile Champion, stamping himself as the leading two year old for next year's Kentucky Derby. Many again would discount Street Sense yet again, because along the road to the Run for the Roses, Street Sense would try to defy the history books in multiple ways. The first was that no horse in the 23 running of the Breeders Cup Juvenile had ever come back the next year to win the Derby. The second would be that he would only run in two preps before the Derby, when the norm was to have at least three. Another thing that made people overlook the talented horse were his close win in the Tampa Bay Derby and his nose loss in the Bluegrass to the little known Dominican.

Again nobody to the time to look deeper into the subject. Tampa Bay's track is often noticed for it's quirkiness and unpredictable nature. It could have very well been that Street Sense did not enjoy the surface, when another quality colt, Any Given Saturday, did. Also in the Bluegrass Stakes, Street Sense would run over a synthetic surface and it is well know that he was not even close to his best when racing over them. Everyone also seemed to forget that he would be returning to the sight of his most impressive victory, the Juvenile, when racing in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. He would also be coming into the race in peak form and fresh. When you look back at the race, many would go, how in the lords name did I overlook him?

As you can imagine Street Sense went on to win the 2007 Kentucky Derby, stealing it away from the talented front runner Hard Spun, in a performance that was almost a carbon copy of his Breeders Cup Juvenile win. Jockey Calvin Borel, or Bo-rail, as he has come to be know, to Street Sense up the rail for a second time, allowing Street Sense to go from 19th to first, finishing in front by 2 1/2 lengths by the time he crossed under the wire. This win would etch this stars name into the record books as the first Breeders Cup Juvenile Champion to ever win a Kentucky Derby and the first horse since Spectacular Bid in 1979 to win after being crowned Champion Juvenile.

Street Sense would never be able to reclaim the glory of that moment, his last win coming in the Travers Stakes, in a soul stirring stretch battle against the new comer Grasshopper. Before that he would lose the Preakness to the eventual Breeders Cup Classic victor and Horse of the Year, Curlin. He would run in the Kentucky Cup Classic after the Travers only to finish second to have the tables turned on him by Derby runner-up Hard Spun. The final race of his career would be his worst finish to date, as he made a bold move with Curlin on the final turn of the Breeders Cup Classic, but failed to sustain that run, eventually finishing fourth.

Overshadowed by two titans by the name of Hard Spun and Curlin, Street Sense's accomplishments were swallowed by the larger. The star of the year was Curlin, who had been the one to end Street Sense's aspirations of a Triple Crown by the bob of his head in the Preakness. His losses in his last final two races were all people would remember of him, and that is not right. I know this sport is all about the "what have you done for me lately" quote, but that does not mean that accomplishments that should have won him Horse of the Year or Champion Three Year Old, should be forgotten. Yes, he was stopped before he could show the world what he could become if allowed to race just one more year, but that does not erase accomplishments such as breaking the once unbreakable Juvenile Jinx. Street Sense may not be great but he sure came darn close. He should not be discounted, because he missed out on greatness by bob of a head.


  1. A generous tale, considering that you are such a Curlin fan. Did Curlin replace Street Sense's spot in your heart when he came along.

    'STREET SENSE ROCK'S came the announcement as Calvin and his colt introduced themselves formally on the biggest day in two year old racing. The race caller was so focused on Circular Quay that he almost didn't give the winner his due. Carl Naftzger the former bull rider's colt became my early Derby favorite that day. Calvin Borel just added to his charm, this was a colt with a nice human family that you could be proud of.

    Fast forward to the first Saturday in May, 'the juvenile curse is broken' as Street Sense and Calvin streak home in a Derby run not equaled until a certain bird came along. And let it not be forgotten that Imawildandcrazyguy did finish a fabulous fourth to the terrific trio ahead of him. Forever the gray gelding will hold that small honor.

    I am glad that Street Sense didn't stick around to get the title of 'beaten by a girl'. And who know's how he might have done in a dryer BC Classic. My heart went out to Calvin that day, and of course Ballydoyle and family.

    Personally, I remember Street Sense never getting enough respect before the Derby win, maybe even afterwards. A quiet trainer and an unproven sire probably didn't help in that regard. D. Wayne Lukas did grace the colt with remark's about his 'incredible turn of foot'.
    Street Sense got his sire off to a great start and now he rides the coattails of the Zenyatta-Street Boss-Street Sounds-Shocking wave of Street Cry's supremacy. Add the benefit of shuttling to Australia and this stallion's streets may be paved with gold. I can't wait to see his first squadron of little empire makers.

    Speaking of which, that superbly well bred Frankel favorite has recently been described as underachieving considering all of the good mares he's gotten. Here I thought he was doing swell. His get should get better with age, so there's still hope for this bum who's son only came in 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. LOL.


  2. Actually I liked Hard Spun more than I did SS. My early derby favorite in 06 was the beautiful Nobiz Like Showbiz. Then I heard some talk of this remarkable unbeaten colt who had swept the Rebel and Arkansas Derby. I then, to curious to stand it, went to watch the replays. After watching them I knew he would be great. SS was always the rival of Curlin, who after the Preakness was pushed into the background because of his less than stellar Haskell loss and close JCGC win. Nonetheless, SS deserved to be recognized and because of the even more spectacular performance of others he was soon forgoten.

  3. common sense suggests that street sense will do as well or appreciable better as a stallion,that i will guarantee.....he loves the ladies and word is that he is a "STUD"

  4. Ahh the first year I actually got the top three right, I just had 1-2 in the wrong order :P.

  5. STREET SENSE accomplished great things...it was great of you to remind us of him.

    Anon and LDP,

    Let me ask you, does the fact that CURLIN was on steroids during his 3y.o. season diminish his accomplishments in any way?

    It's obvious that STREET SENSE was denied a shot at the Triple Crown because of it. Also, if not for his perfect Derby trip, I'd have cashed a nice pool 2 future wager on HARD SPUN @ 20-1.

    If CURLIN's fertility isn't affected by the performance enhancing drugs, his miler pedigree may be a better challenger to the best sire prospect of that class...HARD SPUN.

    STREET SENSE may be the better "classic" sire if his progeny aren't pushed too hard, too fast. Remember, he had to run in front wraps nearly his entire career suggesting his skill as a runner exceeded his physical capability at that stage of development. Consider also how brilliant late-developing ZENYATTA was...with different connections she may not have become the outstanding, undefeated racer she was.

    SS and Z are both by STREET CRY, who won the Dubai World Cup at age 4 for his signature win.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you both!

  6. Amature,
    The only reason we know that Curlin was on the anabolic steroids is because his owners had the guts to come public and announce that. Now if I remember correctly Curlin wasn't on the steroids during th BCC, they had stopped giving him them by that point. Also, the steroids were the same as those given to BB, and IMO they only acted as a pain killer to his feet, like motrin, tylonal, Advil, or Aleave would, which basiclly lessened the pain he felt. Whe taken off of the steroids he felt the pain of his brittle feet, and though not as brilliant, still contiued to win. Curlin was off the stuff in Dubai and you saw what he did, which was beat this year's eventual winner by almost eight lengths. So IMO the drugs did nothing to him it was all Curlin and talent.

  7. LDP,

    My point was CURLIN was definitely on steroids in the Preakness and didn't come off them until January 2008. This was a lead in a NY Times article by Joe Drape in a July 2008:

    "Curlin was named Horse of the Year in 2007, an accomplishment perhaps attained with the help of the anabolic steroid Winstrol, his owner, Jess Jackson, has acknowledged. Now, Jackson is hoping to prove that Curlin is not merely a chemically enhanced colt, but a true champion."

    "In January, Jackson discovered that Curlin was receiving the steroid and ordered the trainer Steve Asmussen to discontinue its use."

    The only way Jackson found out about the steroid was because they had to get clean to go to Dubai. So was that guts, or saving face? It's likely that the reporter found out about the steroids when researching Asmussen's alleged drug offenses and gave Jackson the chance to come clean before reporting the facts...then Jackson threw Asmussen under the bus.

    As for CURLIN's Dubai World Cup...hands down, one of the most scintillating performances I've ever seen. He was clean and magnificent that day. That much I can agree with you about.

    Regarding the steroids, they were used to enhance performance by allowing horses to recover from injury faster, increase appetite, muscle mass gain, increased red blood cell counts and increased aggression. The soft tissue injuries inevitable from the stress of racing were healed faster and allowed the trainers to breeze a horse back sooner than usual.

    CURLIN was late to the races due to well documented shin problems. After he was purchased, he was able to earn figures that even seasoned speed rating experts from Thoro-graph and the Ragozin Sheets had never seen in a young, inexperienced 3y.o. On Thoro-graph figs, CURLIN never regressed running three paired figures in the zero range (lower is better, negative numbers are best) when one pair usually saps a young/developing runner. Instead of regressing, remarkably he ran a new top (-3) in the Preakness.

    Finally, BIG BROWN was on the same stuff. He had the same fantastic progression early in his 3y.o. season. He ran an "8" as a 2y.o. before being bought by IEAH and trained by Dutrow, Jr. He ran a new top ("1") in the allowance win to start, then another new top (-3 1/2) in the Florida Derby and yet another new top in the Kentucky Derby (-4 3/4).

    BB regressed in his Preakness win (-1), but it was well chronicled that he hadn't had his usual dose of the Winstrol in some time.

    All the horse? I hate to tell you, it was only for Curlin in 2008 and for BB after the Triple Crown.

  8. Ameture,
    My point is you have no idea who else in the Preakness was on Winstrol, none, because they never came out and publicly said it. Curlin's owners didn't need to say that Curlin was on Winstrol when they found out he was on them, they could have very well kept it quiet if they wanted to, yet didn't, so yes I call that guts. SS could have been on steroids and so could have Hard Spun but we don't know. Also if I recall Curlin regressed in his Kentucky Derby, after running amazing figs in his first three starts. Almost every horse in America is raced on some kind of drug, whether it's Winstrol, Laisix, Bute, whatever, they are on it and to pick out one horse, just because his connections said something publicly while the other either said "no comment" or were never questioned is wrong.

    I will not continue on the subject of this any longer. I have one opinion you have another. This was meant to be a STREET SENSE remeberance blog, not a Curlin blog.

  9. LDP,

    I apologize if you took my anti-CURLIN info the wrong way...it strikes a major nerve when I read that you think that Jess Jackson has "guts". My responses to you were about Jackson and Asmussen re: CURLIN's management as a 3y.o., not to start an argument. I wanted to present another angle that greatly affected your recall of STREET SENSE's true greatness.

    Jackson admitted the steroids Curlin was on in July 2008; he probably knew about them in January or February of 2008 when they had to get CURLIN clean for his Dubai World Cup run. Why didn't he announce it then, before going to Dubai?

    My comments were my way of remembering STREET SENSE, a fantastic horse I loved and followed closely in the BC Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby (along with HARD SPUN). STREET SENSE was denied the chance to be mentioned as one of the very best horses of all time. IMO, STREET SENSE was denied greater glory on the track because CURLIN was knowingly on steroids during his 3y.o. season.

    You are absolutely correct that I have no idea who else may or may not have been on the steroids.

    We all have access to archived Thoro-graph figures of the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup races which bear out largely reliable numbers. Those are the ones I've studied the last five years to decipher form cycles. CURLIN never regressed a full point through the Preakness, something seasoned handicappers on radio programs had never seen. He unbelievably ran a new top that day (-3) when he re-rallied to nose out STREET SENSE.

    I made a comment about the one colt that I know who was on PED's, one who denied a champion the chance to become the next Triple Crown winner.

    In fact, STREET SENSE nearly missed the Derby because Carl Nafzger felt he hadn't come back to the condition he held when he won the BC Juvenile (-2 on Thoro-graph), didn't think he was training vigorously enough. In the TB Derby he ran a 1 1/2, the Blue Grass a 2 1/4 (on a track you correctly stated he didn't like), then back to his top (2) in the Derby win. He repeated that figure in the Preakness.

    STREET SENSE should have had the chance to run for a TRIPLE CROWN, but a 'roided CURLIN found a reserve at Pimlico that I attribute to the PED's.

    STREET SENSE should have been the 2008 Champion 3y.o. Perhaps he could have been HOY. I'm sad for James Tafel, Carl Nafzger, and Calvin Borel that their knowledge of the brilliance of STREET SENSE was denied by drug use in another competitor.

    I'm most sad that a young fan's rememberance of a true Champion like STREET SENSE would include words like "overshadowed" or "he would never reclaim the glory" despite wins in the Jim Dandy Stakes and the revered midsummer Derby, the Travers Stakes.

    No hard feelings, I hope. Just dialogue.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  10. Ameture,
    I take offense because this horse, beyond even Rachel Alexandra is my favorite horse, and like many, I can get rather defensive if someone challenges my favorite horse.

    SS was a champion, and I understand your view on the numbers, but I honestly will contribute that to relitively easy races leadin up to the crown allowing him to run as well as he did. I think the fact that he ran so poorly in th Haskell testifies that it was not the durgs in the TC that made him run like the champion he was and still is. If the drugs kept him going all that time why wouldn't he return even better when rested? The fact is he didn't, and in fact ran one of his worst races there.

    SS could have very well have been on drugs to, and I think the reason he bounced after his Juvenile was because both tracks he raced over are quirky as all get out. Had he raced on a consistent track I think we would've seen a different and better result. Curlin I believe was reported as steroid free by the time he ran in the Cup. Again it was a surface he enjoyed, but he still beat SS there too. Another thing I notice is that SS beat Curlin when he was on Winstrol in the Derby. 10 furlongs is Curlin'd distance, yet he couldn't find reserves in that race.

    I say overshadowed because after the Preakness he won by a hard faught head in the Travers, and lost to Hard Spun in his next race, then ran a career worse finish in BC. He failed to ever repeat the dominace he showed at Churchill, shich is why I said he would never reclaim his former glory.

    I think he was great, but peaked in the Derby and Preakness. The Travers was amazing but Grasshopper failed to really be a consistent winner afterwards. Curlin and Hard Spun took the glory after the TC because of, mainly the BC.

  11. LDP,

    I understand your passion for CURLIN...keep that opinion of him. That's what the game is all about. I love blogging because of the exchanges, offering a differing POV and taking yours in as well.

    Having followed racing for a while, my understanding is that there are certain tracks where styles of racing are helped or hurt. Mth is such a track, where speed is king. CURLIN ran his race, the Thoro-graph sheets had him at a -2 1/2, just 1/2 point below his Preakness figure. So, while his finish would seem to indicate he regressed, the figures suggested he still ran a winning race for him. ANY GIVEN SATURDAY freaked that day, HARD SPUN narrowly held off CURLIN and actually earned an inferior -1 1/2 because of the way the track played, groundsaved vs. CURLIN.

    As for SS beating CURLIN in the Derby, CURLIN was victimized by his post and Albarado's hesitance to squeeze on him too early to get
    position. CURLIN was forced to steady the first 1/4 mile, engulfed by horseflesh. He did find reserves to finish as well as he did considering the trouble.

    Ordinary 3y.o.'s spit the bit after that much trouble, yet he kept charging. CURLIN made a sustained move to be within range at the mile
    mark, got stuck in traffic and was shuffled back, then found a lane 5 wide and passed 5 horses in the final 1/4 mile. In fact, my opinion ofCURLIN was elevated after his Derby run because of his troubled trip, ground lost while SS got a dream rail run and HARD SPUN avoided all the traffic racing on the lead.

    CURLIN was my top choice in the Preakness, putting aside my love for STREET SENSE, because CURLIN had proven to me he wasn't an ordinary horse. I questioned if my opinion of SS was correct. CURLIN was the Preakness value for me and I had him to win, and keyed over SS and HARD SPUN in exactas and tris. I'd have preferred to lose those bets to see SS try
    for the Triple Crown. I'm fan first, small-time player second.

    CURLIN also rewarded me in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the BC Classic, so I was enamored with him as well at the end of '07. I cashed three bets on a superstar the big handicappers didn't know about. When I found out he had been on Winstrol, it sent my opinion of him and his connections in a tailspin. I had to rethink what I thought was true. I've re-thought my opinions and considered myself lucky to win on CURLIN because of the PED's.

    RE: Grasshopper giving SS the business in the Travers, is it possible that 'hopper ran his career-best that day and never repeated that
    effort because it was too demanding to run that hard at that stage of his development against SS? T-graph put the Travers at a -2 1/2, a 1/2
    point better than SS's best figure. SS repeated that figure on the Polytrack in his Kentucky Cup Classic loss which was basically a match
    race on a surface SS never really handled as well as HARD SPUN did. The one surface SS couldn't handle was slop, lost on it twice including the BC Classic where he never really made his move.

    Considering all that is known about CURLIN, STREET SENSE and HARD SPUN, could someone else make the case that HARD SPUN was the better racehorse? He rarely got into trouble, the only track he couldn't handle was at Oaklawn Park, the only distance too far was the Belmont S., he danced all the dances, lost the Derby despite running a new T-graph top because of a perfect trip by the faster horse and the BC Classic because of PED's that allowed CURLIN to run a career-best -4.

    The conversation could continue forever!

    Good luck today w/ CUVEE UNCORKED!

  12. Ameture,
    You are right this could continue forever. I can see you use T-graph, which I'm not real familiar with, I am more familiar with beyers, and right now I cannot recall all of Curlin's beyers. I think Dubai proved that he did not need drugs and that they really didn't help all that much. As I also stated, my belief of Winstrol is that it is a human version of motrin, aleve, advil, or tylonol. I think this because niether really enhance my ability to perform, but get rid of the pain so that I can perform to my best ability. I have shoulder pain, and have had injured it twice in the same spot, the motrin reduces the swelling and loosens the muscle so I can do my normal work w/ less chance of reinjury and, greatfully, less pain. That is why I don't think it affect Curlin as much as it did BB with his feet. Again that is my take on it, from what I have heard about that specific drug.

    On the Hard Spun, yes you could say he was better. He was versatile, could stay the Classic distance yet sprint with the best. He was a gutsy as the come, which is why I liked him so much. SS was never a real favorite of mine. I think he was good, and very threatening, but needed that rail and Churchill to make that jump to true greatness, for at Churchill one could argue he was unbeatable. That is my opinion of him, compared to Hard Spun, who really was overshadowed constently by SS or Curlin.

    On your last two Cuvee Uncorked posts, thank you. She is not my filly, but it seriously feels like she is. With a better trip I think she would've been a lot closer today. Thanks.

  13. This may never be seen by LDP, as it is an older blog, but I wanted to remind all that Curlin came back from Dubai and still did great things. Who knows what that trip did to him. Jerry Baily had said that Cigar could barely stand up after the Dubai experience. That trip did no favors to Indian Blessing either. How many dirt horses have to fail on synthetics before we forgive Curlin for running 4th in the BC Classic- after a tough campaign and returning from Dubai? And prepped by a trainer who admitted that he did not know how to approach synthetics. (Check out the professional vet forums where they denounced the uproar over steroids. Mainstream media ran with Barry Bonds and turned Winstrol into some amazing performance booster that it was not. I know one of the groups that feed Joe Drape his info, including stuff he spits out that is dead wrong, or played with enough to present a darker view) I won't contribute to the decline of this blog to honor Street Sense by listing multiple expert views on the steroids being only a therapuetic aid, only a boost, not the power behind a great colt like Curlin was. LDP, it was Curlin all the way!!! With a healthy dose of Helen Pitts, Scott Blasi, Robby Albarado and even Steve "He's Not The Devil" Asmussen to make this horse a world beater. With sprinter dosage, Belmont staying power, diverse surface wins, mud loving superstardom, a sire like Smart Strike, and an owner who can help make him as a stallion . . . Curlin's got a good shot at a LEGACY. Screw Winstrol, like Frank Sinatra Curlin can sing "I did it my way".

    Back to Street Sense. Him and Curlin both shared the 4th place Classic final race. Solace that even the best horses have their days. It must have been hard for Carl Naftzger to say goodbye, it's not like he has a big horse in the stable every year. Street Sense showed quality as a juvenile and on the Triple Crown trail. Here's to hoping that Carl and Calvin get to team up for some of his good babies. Or that Todd saw good things in Calvin's ride on Ready's Echo and throws him some good horses too.