Rivalries Make for Great Triple Crown Races
by Greg Melikov - 05/14/2007
Rivalries have added thrills galore to racing throughout the years, especially during the Triple Crown season.
Affirmed and Alydar battling in the 1978 Triple Crown season was especially electrifying as Affirmed edged Alydar in all three races to become the 11th and last TC champion.
In '89, Easy Goer and Sunday Silence clashed three times. The runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness thwarted Sunday Silence's bid for a sweep by taking the Belmont Stakes.
The next year, Unbridled and Summer Squall went at it twice. Trainer Carl Nafzger prevailed in the Kentucky Derby over Summer Squall, but the bridesmaid turned the tables in the Preakness.
Nafzger aims to avoid history repeating itself in the 132nd Preakness when he saddles impressive Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense on Saturday.
Trainer Larry Jones, however, is confident his Hard Spun can avenge his second place finish in Louisville and capture the 1 3/16 mile contest at Pimlico.
"We may have to do something different here if we are going to spoil his Triple Crown," Jones said. "I like Carl a lot, but I don't intend for him to have the Triple Crown."
There are similarities between Hard Spun and Summer Squall:
In '90, Unbridled came from well off the pace to gain the lead in the Derby by a length with a furlong to go and drew off by 3 ½ lengths. This year, Street Sense came from far back to lead by a length with a furlong to go and drew clear by 2 ¼ lengths.
In '90, Summer Squall was second with a furlong to go in the Derby and ran second. Earlier that year, he won the Jim Beam Stakes, now known as the Lane's End, at Turfway Park. This year, Hard Spun was second a furlong from the Churchill Downs wire and finished second. Earlier, he won the Lane's End.
In '90, Summer Squall defeated Unbridled in the Preakness. Can Hard Spun duplicate that feat?
Maybe, but the odds favor Street Sense for several reasons. First, eight of the last 20 Derby winners prevailed in the Preakness. In the 21st Century, two scored with the greatest of ease: Smarty Jones by 11 ½ lengths in '04 and Funny Cide the previous year by 9 ¾ lengths.
Secondly, the only Derby runner-up to take the Preakness since Summer Squall was Prairie Bayou in '93.
So I like Street Sense to win the $1 million Preakness.
Calvin Borel will keep the son of Street Cry closer to the pace and there are at least 10 fewer foes than on May 5.
Check out Street Sense's six races at a mile or longer: He was on the lead in the stretch for half of them, but no farther behind than three-quarters of a length.
The horses I believe will give him the most trouble and hit the board are:
Curlin: This lightly raced colt was steadied early after breaking from Post 2 in the Derby, encounter tight quarters between horses along the backstretch, advanced to eighth through traffic after a mile and rallied to run third.
In all three previous outings, the improving son of Smart Strike grabbed a comfortable lead in the stretch and cruised home averaging 9 ½ lengths ahead at the wire.
King of the Roxy: The Santa Anita Derby runner-up, one of a half-dozen horses in the expected nine-horse field that skipped America's Race, has been working well at regular intervals since April 22. On Saturday, he breezed 1:14 2/5 for six furlongs on the Belmont Park training track.
The son of Littleexpectations, with Garrett Gomez climbing aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher, possesses the favorable stalking style needed to win at Pimlico.
There will be no lack of speed with three starters likely contesting the lead: Hard Sun, runner-up in the Derby; Flying First Class, winner of the Derby Trial; and Xchanger, victorious in the Federico Tesio at Pimlico.
However, stalking is the better running style at Pimlico. While one may hit the board, I don't expect any to visit the winner's circle.