08/26/2007 11:00PM

3-year-olds chart courses to Classic

Spencer Tulis/Horsephotos
Calvin Borel celebrates Saturday atop Street Sense after winning the Travers at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Street Sense savored the last part of his summer stay at Saratoga on Sunday morning, stopping every few yards on the walk from trainer Carl Nafzger's barn to the main track for his customary morning-after-the-race jog.

"This is going to be a long walk,'' Nafzger said, among the constant starts and stops on the 12-minute walk.

This was just 13 hours after Street Sense outfought Grasshopper by a half-length to win Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes, becoming the 10th Kentucky Derby winner - and first since Thunder Gulch in 1995 - to win both races. He also became the first 2-year-old champion to win the Travers since Rhythm, 17 years ago.

The Travers victory extended Street Sense's lead in the 3-year-old division over his absent rivals, such as Preakness winner Curlin and Haskell winner Any Given Saturday. That trio of talented 3-year-olds - as well as King's Bishop winner Hard Spun - is headed toward a showdown in the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.

It appears as though all four will take different paths to get there. Curlin, who beat Street Sense in the Preakness, is being pointed to the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 30. Any Given Saturday, who has twice lost to Street Sense, is targeting the $150,000 Brooklyn at Belmont on Sept. 22.

Nafzger mentioned five possible races for Street Sense's next start, though during his explanation of what kind of race he was looking for, he seemed to narrow it down to two. Nafzger mentioned the Super Derby and Massachusetts Handicap, both Sept. 22; the Kentucky Cup Classic and Hawthorne Gold Cup, both on Sept. 29; and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He also said there is a small chance Street Sense could simply train up to the BC Classic.

Nafzger said he would prefer to run Street Sense next against older horses and at 1 1/8 miles, meaning the Massachusetts Handicap or the Kentucky Cup Classic are the logical choices. The Massachusetts Handicap is appealing because under the conditions of the race Street Sense is eligible for a $200,000 bonus in addition to the $300,000 first-place prize.

The $300,000 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park is appealing because it is an easier ship from Nafzger's Churchill barn and is run over a Polytrack surface. Prior to Street Sense's victories in the last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and this year's Kentucky Derby, he raced over Keeneland's Polytrack.

"Polytrack is not any disadvantage to this horse," Nafzger said. "It does work good and it's a very attractive deal to go right from your barn right over to Turfway."

Though Nafzger said Street Sense appeared stressed from the extreme heat immediately following Saturday's race, the colt appeared to be much better Sunday morning. As is commonplace for Nafzger's horses after they run, Street Sense jogged a mile Sunday morning under exercise rider Tracey Wilkes.

"This morning he wasn't dehydrated or anything," Nafzger said Sunday. "He had good texture to his skin, his coat was soft, he cleaned up [his food] last night. He jogged his mile; he did it good and played a little bit."

On Monday, Nafzger said Street Sense may stay at Saratoga a little longer because cool weather was forecast for later in the week.

Nafzger was reluctant to talk about the race for 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year. He believes too much emphasis is put on the Breeders' Cup. Nafzger did point out that Street Sense is a nose and a head away from being undefeated (6 for 6) this year.

"It seems like everybody forgets everything all year long after the Breeders' Cup," Nafzger said. "Memories are very short in this game."

The connections of Curlin and Any Given Saturday may have to hope that's the case this year. Curlin did defeat Street Sense by a head in the Preakness after finishing eight lengths behind him in the Kentucky Derby. Curlin, third in the Haskell, skipped the Travers to focus on the Jockey Club Gold Cup. On Monday, he worked at five furlongs in 1:01.65 over Saratoga's training track.

Steve Asmussen, trainer of Curlin, said: "Any Given Saturday is trying to get there the best way he can, Street Sense is trying to get there the best way he can, I'm trying to get there the best way I can, and Hard Spun is trying to get there the best way he can. If that doesn't indicate that [the Breeders' Cup] matters most, then what does?"

Any Given Saturday was beaten a nose by Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby and 10 1/2 lengths by him in the Kentucky Derby. Since the Derby, Any Given Saturday has been impressive, winning the Dwyer and Haskell Invitational.

"Obviously, Street Sense has won the Derby, he's won the Travers; he's in front at this stage," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Any Given Saturday. "But I think with Any Given Saturday's last two races, he's at least put himself in a position where if he were to defeat Street Sense in the Breeders' Cup Classic, then you could make a case for him."

Grasshopper is unlikely to be in any championship discussion, but he did announce himself as a presence in the division with his gutsy effort in the Travers. After taking the lead from C P West around the clubhouse turn, Grasshopper was in front before grudgingly giving way to Street Sense late.

"I was thrilled," trainer Neil Howard said. "Once you got inside the eighth pole and saw that he was still gong to gut it out, I thought maybe for a split second at the sixteenth pole it looked like he was maybe going to come back on even terms and it'd be a headbob to the wire. But what can you say - man that Street Sense is unbelievable."

Howard and owners Will Farish and Edward Hudson will likely map out a plan that gets them to the Classic. The Super Derby, strictly for 3-year-olds, may work.

Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun returned to Delaware Park on Sunday after earning a hard-fought victory in the King's Bishop. Trainer Larry Jones said Hard Spun was tired, but otherwise in good order. Jones said his goal is still the Classic, but he was unsure what race to use to get there. The Kentucky Cup might be a logical spot because Hard Spun won the Lane's End at Turfway before running second in the Derby.

"I made it a point not to look too far ahead of this race," Jones said. "With two months between now and the Breeders' Cup, surely we can find one spot."