This race is set­ting up nicely for Curlin

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - By Bob Miesz­er­ski

Af­ter Bar­baro dis­man­tled his op­po­nents in the 2006 Ken­tucky Derby, there was a gen­uine sense that the son of Dy­naformer was go­ing to end the drought and be­come the first Triple Crown win­ner since Af­firmed in 1978.

That, it turned out, was not to be. The dream ended abruptly when Bar­baro was se­ri­ously in­jured sec­onds into the Preak­ness, cast­ing a pall over Bernar­dini’s im­pres­sive vic­tory.

The feel­ing that ex­isted af­ter last year’s Derby isn’t there for Street Sense.

Tak­ing noth­ing away from the Street Cry colt’s vic­tory two weeks ago at Churchill Downs, he sim­ply doesn’t ex­ude the same bril­liance. Whereas Bar­baro was un­blem­ished en­ter­ing Mary­land, Street Sense has lost as many races — four — as he has won.

The Preak­ness will be the third start in five weeks for Street Sense, who be­fore the Blue Grass and Ken­tucky Derby had run only twice in more than five months.

An­other rea­son he could be vul­ner­a­ble is that the Preak­ness is run at Pim­lico, not Churchill Downs. Street Sense has won twice in other places but has turned in his two best ef­forts at Louisville. He won the Breed­ers’ Cup Ju­ve­nile there by 10 lengths sev­eral months be­fore his 21⁄ 4- length vic­tory in the Derby.

Among the eight horses seek­ing to beat a colt who is 7-5 on the morn­ing line and who will prob­a­bly be shorter when post time ar­rives, the choice here, again, is Curlin. Third at 5-1 in the Derby, the Smart Strike colt can re­bound from his first de­feat in a race where he can’t help but get a bet­ter trip than he did in Ken­tucky.

Hin­dered by his No. 2 draw in the Derby, Curlin lost po­si­tion early and was never able to fully re­cover.

Al­though he did not threaten the top two fin­ish­ers, Curlin did fin­ish well to be third. In a much smaller field in the Preak­ness, he should be able to es­tab­lish po­si­tion just be­hind the pace­set­ters to­day, much as he did in his two blowout vic­to­ries in Arkansas.

Hard Spun ran very well when sec­ond two weeks ago and the son of Danzig has to be re­spected. There are no knocks against a Penn­syl­va­nia-bred who has been worse than third only once in seven races and who has shown the abil­ity to han­dle any track.

In a ca­reer that be­gan last fall, Hard Spun has won at Delaware Park, Philadel­phia Park, the Fair Grounds in New Or­leans and Tur­fway Park in Florence, Ky.

Cir­cu­lar Quay was a last­minute ad­di­tion to the Preak­ness cast af­ter fin­ish­ing sixth in Ken­tucky. He is el­i­gi­ble to im­prove since he’d been idle for eight weeks be­fore the Derby.

A son of Thun­der Gulch, Cir­cu­lar Quay is one of two of trainer Todd Pletcher’s en­trants. The other is the Ohio-bred King Of The Roxy. Best around one turn, he was sec­ond to Ti­ago in a weak re­newal of the Santa Anita Derby. He couldn’t last nine fur­longs in Ar­ca­dia, so how is he go­ing to win the 13⁄ 16- mile Preak­ness against bet­ter op­po­si­tion?

Trainer Wayne Lukas is singing the praises of Fly­ing First Class, but he’s an­other colt who is un­proven around two turns and who was blitzed twice by Curlin at Oak­lawn Park.

The best thing C.P. West has go­ing for him is jockey Edgar Prado. Xchanger has the ad­van­tage of hav­ing won at Pim­lico, but he has yet to show he is fast enough to han­dle any of the top three choices. A win by Mint Slewlep would be one of the big­gest sur­prises in the long his­tory of the sec­ond jewel of the Triple Crown.

bob.miesz­er­ski@la­times.com

Jeff Haynes AFP/Getty Images

HIS TIME? Curlin, who didn’t get a good draw in the Derby, did well to fin­ish third. He should be a threat to­day in the Preak­ness.

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