MAY 31, 2007
by James Scully
Confidence -- "He's as good as before, or better. Carl's (Nafzger) got him on the right track," a confident Calvin Borel said following Wednesday's workout. Nafzger echoed the same sentiments about STREET SENSE (Street Cry [Ire]). "He worked :49 this morning and never did drop his head," the conditioner noted. These comments suggest that owner James Tafel will make the decision to send the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner to the June 9 Belmont S. (G1), setting up a potentially great match-up between Street Sense, CURLIN (Smart Strike) and HARD SPUN (Danzig). Mr. Tafel's decision will be announced on Thursday, but Borel is already talking a little smack. "Curlin (Smart Strike) beat him last time, but I don't think he'll ever do it again," Borel said. "We learned a little bit more about him (in the Preakness [G1]), and I don't think (Curlin) can beat him." This is an exciting rivalry.
Age doesn't matter -- He's old (nine). He hadn't run since September. And Monday's Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile S. (G1) was too short for him. What can one say about THE TIN MAN (Affirmed)? Four-for-four in the United States last year with two Grade 1 victories, including a convincing score in the Arlington Million (G1), his only 2006 loss was an excellent second to David Junior overseas in the Dubai Duty Free S. (UAE-G1). Why wasn't he named champion turf horse? After winning his last three starts in wire-to-wire fashion, The Tin Man rated off the pace in the Shoemaker before providing an excellent display of his class, launching a strong three deep rally into the stretch that propelled him into the lead by midstretch. The race was over at this point as the grand old warrior dominated to the wire.
Citrus Kid -- Trainer Bobby Frankel blames himself for her lone turf loss, claiming that he didn't give proper instructions to the rider when CITRONNADE (Lemon Drop Kid) rated far off the pace in the Queen Elizabeth II Invitational Challenge Cup S. (G1) and never fired. The four-year-old filly has been on or close to the pace in four wins since then, and Citronnade earned her first Grade 1 tally in Monday's Gamely Breeders' Cup S. (G1), leading wire-to-wire. Frankel is loaded in California presently with both Citronnade and Matriarch S. (G1) heroine PRICE TAG (GB) (Dansili [GB]), who offered a good rally before settling for runner-up honors in the Gamely.
Honey back from Dubai -- Todd Pletcher holds the strongest hand on the East Coast with turf distaffers HONEY RYDER (Lasting Approval), WAIT A WHILE (Maria's Mon) and SAFARI QUEEN (Arg) (Lode). Multiple Grade 1 winner Honey Ryder notched her second straight triumph in Saturday's Sheepshead Bay H. (G2), rallying past Safari Queen in deep stretch for a one-length decision, and the six-year-old gray mare showed no ill effects from an 11th-place finish versus males in the Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-G1). The "Dubai jinx" is a myth that has become accepted as fact due to constant repetition by members of the media, similar to the claims of tighter turns at Pimlico, and Pletcher put it in the proper context following the Sheepshead. "I've always thought the shipping back from Dubai thing has always been overrated," Pletcher said. "The horses that we've brought back have always come back in good form."
Met heroics -- CORINTHIAN (Pulpit) finally performed at a high level outside of Florida in Monday's Met Mile (G1), delivering an outstanding effort to win comfortably by three parts of a length. He had disappointed mightily in his last two starts in the Empire State, failing as the odds-on favorite in the Excelsior Breeders' Cup H. (G3) and a Saratoga allowance, but the four-year-old colt is headed in the right direction presently for James Jerkens. Corinthian notched a 107 BRIS Speed rating in the Met Mile, and he could step up to face Horse of the Year INVASOR (Arg) (Candy Stripes) in the June 30 Suburban H. (G1) next out.
Stay healthy -- Corinthian wasn't the only horse to provide a boost to the handicap division last week. HARLINGTON (Unbridled) returned to the races against a less-than-stellar bunch, facing five allowance/optional claiming rivals in a 1 1/16-mile race at Belmont on Thursday, but he turned in an encouraging performance off the 12-month layoff, easily drawing clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths. The Pletcher-trained five-year-old recorded his fifth consecutive triple-digit Speed number (103), and the Grade 2 winner has always been very promising. Harlington just hasn't managed to stay healthy.
Spotsgone? -- The Polytrack at Arlington doesn't play like Keeneland. During the recently completed Keeneland meet, horses won wire-to-wire at a higher percentage in turf routes than at every distance on the main track. Arlington's synthetic surface is more fair, with SPOTSGONE (Bright Launch) remarkably leading wire-to-wire in Saturday's Hanshin Cup H. (G3). Dismissed as the longest shot at 81-1, the four-year-old dueled through a half-mile in :45 3/5 and three-quarters in 1:09 before drawing off from the rallying 6-5 favorite, LEWIS MICHAEL (Rahy). Spotsgone posted his first graded win with the 2 1/4-length decision under Earlie Fires.
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