With a resume like that, it makes perfect sense to send Street Sense to the top of the list of Kentucky Derby contenders in this week's Run to the Roses' Top 10.
After a thrilling stretch-long duel, Street Sense nosed out Any Given Saturday and won the Tampa Bay Derby, covering the 1 1-16 miles in a track record 1:43.11. Not bad for a 3-year-old debut following a record 10-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4.
"He's been off for so long," Street Sense jockey Calvin Borel said after Saturday's race. "We had to start somewhere, and this seemed like the best place to start. Believe you me, he's 20 lengths better than he ran today."
Trainer Carl Nafzger was impressed with Street Sense, but had high praise for Any Given Saturday, one of several Derby hopefuls trained by Todd Pletcher.
"I've said a thousand times, it's a helluva colt," he said of Street Sense. "And Any Given Saturday... of all the 3-year-olds that have come along except for Breeders' Cup horses, this horse is about the best."
Street Sense reaffirmed that his Juvenile win was no fluke. In that race, the son of Street Cry beat all of last week's top three Derby contenders - Great Hunter, Circular Quay and Scat Daddy. Any Given Saturday did not run in the Juvenile.
All along, Nafzger's plan for Street Sense has been two Derby preps. The final one will be the Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 14. Also set for the Blue Grass is Great Hunter, the Robert B. Lewis winner trained by Doug O'Neill.
The last Derby winner with just two 3-year-old preps was Sunny's Halo in 1983. Before that, it was Jet Pilot in 1947. In addition, no Juvenile winner has gone on to take the Derby.
O'Neill, meanwhile, is closing in on his first Derby. On Saturday, he added another hopeful to his list when Cobalt Blue won the 1 1-16th-mile San Felipe at Santa Anita in the colt's first race longer than 6½ furlongs and around two turns.
Cobalt Blue is owned by entertainer Merv Griffin, who paid $325,000 for the son of Golden Missile.
"It's alive again," Griffin said of his dream of reaching his first Derby. "I think he ran just awesome. He's a powerhouse, a powerhouse of a race horse. Today he's Cobalt Green."
Cobalt Blue checks in at No. 9 this week, with a final prep in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Park on April 7.
Curlin soars onto the list at No. 10 after his 5¼-length win in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park in his second career start. His first was a 12¾-length laugher in a seven-furlong race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3.
Dropping out this week are Stormello and King of the Roxy:
1. Street Sense (Carl Nafzger, trainer; Calvin Borel, jockey): Sensational 3-year-old debut in Tampa Bay Derby moves him to the top.... Next start: Blue Grass (April 14).... Derby Future Odds (pool 2): 8-1.
2. Great Hunter (Doug O'Neill; Corey Nakatani): Rematch with Street Sense awaits before Derby.... Next start: Blue Grass (April 14).... Odds: 11-1.
3. Circular Quay (Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez): Louisiana Derby winner owned by Michael Tabor, who won '95 Derby with Thunder Gulch.... Next start: Wood Memorial (April 7).... Odds: 8-1.
4. Scat Daddy (Pletcher, Edgar Prado): Prado replaces Velazquez aboard Fountain of Youth winner.... Next start: Florida Derby (March 31).... Odds: 16-1.
5. Nobiz Like Shobiz (Barclay Tagg, Cornelio Velasquez): Worked 4 furlongs in 49.80 last week at Gulfstream Park.... Blinkers on for next race.... Next start: Wood Memorial (April 7).... Odds: 8-1.
6. Ravel (Pletcher, Garrett Gomez): Like Street Sense, only two Derby preps for son of 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.... Next start: Santa Anita Derby (April 7).... Odds: 11-1.
7. Any Given Saturday (Pletcher, Velazquez): Gallant effort a nose short in Tampa Bay Derby.... Next start: Undecided.... Odds: 11-1.
8. Notional (O'Neill, Nakatani): Prepped for next race with 6-furlong work in 1:13.60 at Hollywood Park.... Next start: Florida Derby (March 31).... Odds: 22-1.
9. Cobalt Blue (O'Neill, Victor Espinoza): A legit contender after San Felipe win.... Next start: Illinois Derby (April 7).... Odds: 38-1.
10. Curlin (Steve Asmussen, Robby Albarado): Impressive 5¼-length winner in Rebel after breaking maiden by 12¾ lengths last month.... Next start: Arkansas Derby (April 14).... Odds: 30-1.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Adore the Gold, Cowtown Cat, Hard Spun, King of the Roxy, Stormello.