10/28/2007 11:00PM

Gazing into a crystal ball

EmailLast year, Street Sense used a golden rail path and terrific acceleration to win the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile by 10 lengths as if he really might be the first Juvenile winner to go on to take the Kentucky Derby.

Six months later, with trainer Carl Nafzger executing a pluperfect game plan, Street Sense did indeed deliver on that promise to win the most famous 1 1/4-mile race in the world. All this, of course, will be invoked from now to the first Saturday in May as attention shifts to Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito and his plan for the 2007 BC Juvenile winner, War Pass.

While War Pass was an impressive wire-to-wire winner of the Juvenile at Monmouth last Saturday, Zito faces an array of different challenges with his colt.

First, Street Sense won his Juvenile at Churchill Downs, where the Kentucky Derby will be run, not Monmouth Park.

Secondly, War Pass won his Juvenile over a rain-soaked, sealed racing strip that played favorable towards front-running speed until it began to dry out slightly a few hours later when the four-day rainstorm finally abated.

Moreover, War Pass had no real challenger for the lead after undefeated Wicked Style was forced to break from a disadvantageous outer post position. The field also was weakened when Dixie Chatter, the improving Grade 1 winner of the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept 30, was scratched on Friday due to a fever. Slew's Tiznow, who ran well for second behind Wicked Style in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 6, was scratched from the field Saturday morning.

Meanwhile the steady going Salute the Sarge didn't run a step on the wet surface, and stretch-running Pyro - a distance-bred son of Pulpit out of a Wild Again mare - rallied belatedly for his second straight second-place finish behind War Pass in a Grade 1 race at one mile or longer.

The likely development during the next several months for some of these potential rivals probably is the most important point to consider.

War Pass, a sleek-moving son of Cherokee Run out of a Mr. Prospector mare, certainly is bred beautifully for middle-distance races at the highest level, but will he mature into a classic performer the way Street Sense did?

Will War Pass even stay ahead of Pyro, Dixie Chatter, Slew's Tiznow, and other promising young horses who are likely to mature into the distance horses they were bred to become?

Even the day after War Pass won the BC Juvenile, two 2-year-olds performed strongly in one-mile stakes at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs. Both hinted that there will be further improvement through the winter and spring: Etched, winner of the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, and Court Vision, winner of the Iroquois at Churchill Downs.

Court Vision, a son of Gulch out of a Storm Bird mare, is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who has a few young prospects for 2008 worth keeping in mind. Among them is Z Humor, who was a good third behind War Pass and Pyro in the Champagne prior to his non-threatening fifth in the BC Juvenile, and Majestic Warrior, winner of the Hopeful Stakes with a strong finish prior to a disappointing effort in the Champagne when bothered by a hidden injury.

"A little time off should take of everything," Mott said after removing Majestic Warrior from consideration for the BC Juvenile. "We might even be able to get him ready to run in the Remsen" at Aqueduct on Nov. 24. At full health, Majestic Warrior certainly ranks as one of the top long-range Derby prospects in the country.

Meanwhile, Court Vision's status took a leap forward with his performance in the Iroquois. Forced extremely wide on the far turn, Court Vision did not kick into top gear until he reached the final furlong, where he made up six lengths to score, galloping out in the clear under Julien Leparoux, who won the BC Juvenile Turf aboard Nownownow on the soggy Monmouth turf course last Friday.

Leparoux was impressed with Court Vison's late burst of speed, and after two prior races on Polytrack the colt now is proven on dirt at Churchill, which could help him down the road. The same surely is true for Nownownow, who was a good second in a Churchill maiden sprint on dirt last May before currently suspended trainer Patrick Biancone sent him out to win the Anticipation Stakes on the grass at Saratoga on Aug, 31.

While Biancone's assistant, Francois Parisel, was the official trainer listed for the BC Juvenile Turf, it is unclear who will be handling Nownownow through the next several months. Yet, there is little doubt that this strong-finishing son of Whywhywhy and other top 2-year-olds who show strength in various turf races over a distance of ground will be tried on dirt sometime during the Triple Crown prep season.

Nashua Stakes winner Etched, a son of the speedy Forestry out an Unbridled's Song mare and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, might be a question mark at true classic distances, but his jockey, Alan Garcia, saw enough to make him believe there is more scope to this colt.

"I had so much horse the whole race," Garcia said. "He's a big horse with a real big stride. He liked the mile and I think he wants more distance. At the quarter pole," Garcia continued, "I was just looking for horses, but no one could keep up with him."

Similar optimistic quotes and thoughts about longer races for promising young horses will be spoken from New York to Florida to California after the Remsen and the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park in December as well as the Tropical Park Derby at Calder when 2007 turns into 2008.

The search for the next Street Sense is an annual ritual that begins the moment the BC Juvenile result is declared official. Among the horses we may hear about are several who showed little in slop at Monmouth on Saturday - Kodiac Kowboy, Tale of Ekati, Old Man Buck, Overextended, Globalization, and Wicked Style, plus a handful who were put on the shelf during the summer and early fall, including Ready's Image, Georgie Boy, and Gold Coyote. But, the best bet of all is that there will be dozens of high-class young horses that none of us have yet to see or know about at every stop along the way who will burst on the scene trying to wrest away War Pass's grip on the division.

Nick Zito knows all about this, having won Kentucky Derby trophies with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994, both of whom were quietly moving forward in their development far away from anyone's radar as October was passing to November in their 2-year-old seasons.