10/03/2007 12:00AM

Form points to Street Sense in Classic

EmailPHILADELPHIA - All the major prep races have been run. It is only three weeks to the Breeders' Cup Classic. All the major contenders are still in play. When was the last time we could say that?

The one-two-three finishers from the Kentucky Derby are in. The best older horse is in. Two second-season 3-year-olds are in.

Street Sense, Hard Spun, and Curlin not only survived the Triple Crown, they have thrived since the Triple Crown. When was the last time we could say that about the major Triple Crown players?

Even though he lost the Jockey Club Gold Cup at the end, Lawyer Ron is legit. And so are second-season 3-year-olds Any Given Saturday and Tiago.

So, who is it?

I am thinking it is Street Sense and here is why.

Look at the Derby winner's three best Beyer Speed Figure races - the BC Juvenile (108), the Derby (110), and the Preakness (111). What do they have in common? In two cases, a very big field (Juvenile and Derby). In all three races, a very hot pace.

The Classic is going to have both a large field and a hot pace.

You don't have to read between the lines to know that Todd Pletcher plans to tell John Velazquez to put Lawyer Ron on the lead, or certainly very close to it. All of Hard Spun's best races were on the lead. There probably will be other speed in the race.

Check out Street Sense's summer and early fall. Three small fields, three moderate paces, Street Sense fairly close to that pace. The Derby winner was taken out of his best game in all three races and still won two of them, admittedly against moderate competition.

Check out the running lines from Street Sense's three great races. He was 13th, 19th, and eighth after the first call, a combined 40 lengths off the pace. He was still a combined 38 lengths back after the second call.

The big move came on the far turn. Street Sense is a superior turn runner. He is agile with acceleration on command. It does appear he loves to run near the rail. Who knows if he gets that trip at Monmouth?

I do know this: Street Sense will love the turns at Monmouth Park. He turned at Pimlico just like he did at Churchill Downs. Street Sense will not be anywhere near the pace in the Classic. He will be in position to deliver that huge run that dominated the BC Juvenile, won the Derby, and, were it not for a heroic stretch run by Curlin, would have won the Preakness.

If we have learned anything about trainer Carl Nafzger, we know he knows history, his and that of Street Sense. We know the trainer will have Street Sense ready to run his optimum race. And he knows how Street Sense has run his best races.

We also know jockey Calvin Borel knows Street Sense like he knows himself. He has ridden him in all 12 of his starts. That matters.

We also know Street Sense is a big-moment horse. Street Sense is 0 for 3 in the race before "the" race. He is 2 for 2 in the big race. I think it is going to be 3 for 3.

I think the winner almost has to come from the trio of Lawyer Ron, Curlin, and Street Sense. I think Tiago has an upset chance. Any Given Saturday would not be a complete shock. Hard Spun has been tough, versatile, and very well trained, but has never run a Beyer good enough to beat all these horses in one race. Wherever he finishes, Hard Spun's speed will make sure any pace horses have to run all the way.

Lawyer Ron's best race could be compromised by the pace scenario. He has the sustainable speed that makes him dangerous in any race. I am not sure how he will react to a stretch fight. Most of his big wins have come when he dominated. There will be no domination in the Classic.

Curlin is probably the most talented horse of the bunch. Think about it? First start on Feb. 3, followed by Rebel, Arkansas Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Haskell, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. At the end of all that, the colt gets a career best 114 Beyer. Amazing.

Still, I wonder about the Monmouth Park turns for Curlin. The colt gave up a lot of ground on the Pimlico turns to Street Sense and ran him down anyway. To ask the huge-striding Curlin to do that again may be asking too much, especially if Nafzger has Street Sense as good on the day as I think he is going to have him.

When you think of 2007, the one indelible moment will be when Borel brought Street Sense back down the stretch after he won the Derby. I think Borel and Street Sense are going to get one more moment that can't top the Derby, but may equal it.