03/08/2007 1:00AM

Stopwatch shows Street Sense ready for Tampa Derby

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BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Halfway through his five-furlong work shortly after dawn on Thursday, as Street Sense approached the quarter pole, the clocker at the Palm Meadows training center proposed a bet to the collection of trainers and railbirds gathered around the viewing stand.

"Over or under 23 for the last quarter mile," was the proposition.

"I'll take the over," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "This isn't Churchill Downs."

Depending upon which stopwatch was used, the wager wound up a draw. But there was an overwhelming consensus: Street Sense couldn't have looked better in his final serious work before his much-anticipated 3-year-old debut, which is likely to take place next Saturday in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.

After covering his opening three furlongs in 38.06 seconds under regular rider Calvin Borel, Street Sense flew home his final quarter-mile in clockings that ranged from 22.97 to 23.03 on the several stopwatches keyed in on the reigning Eclipse winner and Breeders' Cup Juvenile champ. He then proceeded to gallop out another eighth of a mile in 11.38 before pulling up seven furlongs in 1:26.16. He was officially credited with working five furlongs in 1:01.

"That couldn't have been any better," a smiling Carl Nafzger said as Street Sense headed back to the barn. "He's right on schedule. I couldn't ask him to do any more than he's done up to this point."

Nafzger has weighed several options for Street Sense's 2007 debut but appears to have settled on the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby as his first choice.

"We've got Calvin lined up for next Saturday and I'm pretty sure we're going to the Tampa Bay Derby now," said Nafzger. "That gives us a two-turn race and four weeks until the Blue Grass, so the timing is perfect. If I felt he wasn't fit and ready to go up there and get two turns, then I might think about staying here and trying to get a race for him at Gulfstream."

Nafzger said he will probably give Street Sense one more, easier work prior to making the trip to Tampa.

"He'll have a cosmetic work," said Nafzger. "Either a half or five-eighths depending upon what he shows us coming out of this one."

Nafzger may also have some company for Street Sense on the van to Tampa as his former assistant, trainer Ian Wilkes, plans to send his Grade 2 winner Court Folly to run on the same card in the $75,000 Turf Dash . The outing will be the first for Court Folly since Nov. 5.

"He ran hard all last year, so I just gave him some time off at the end of the year," said Wilkes. "We kind of squeezed the lemon dry and I needed to fill the tank up again. He's a gelding, he's sound, and hopefully he'll have a long future. He's bred for turf and I thought this race at Tampa was a good place to get him started."

Joint Effort adds to Romans's misery

Trainer Dale Romans has not had a good week. Last Saturday, his Grade 3 winner Bright One had to be euthanized after breaking a sesamoid bone in his left foreleg while pulling up after finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Richter Scale Handicap. Several days later, Romans had to withdraw Joint Effort from consideration for Saturday's Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita after she developed an abscess in her back foot.

"I can deal with an abscess but not with what happened to Bright One," said Romans. "Mark [Guidry] said he was talking to Johnny Velazquez about how fast the race had gone while pulling up, when all of a sudden Bright One bobbled, and in one step he was gone. You never get used to something like that with any horse, and it particularly stings when it's a horse of his caliber. I thought with the way he had run Saturday before the accident that he appeared to be coming back to his old self."

One start for Chatain before Met Mile

Trainer Angel Penna Jr. said he has three possibilities in mind for Chatain's next start, with the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile the major goal for his lightly raced colt. Chatain, winner of the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Handicap and fourth behind Invasor in the Grade 1 Donn this meet, could run next in the the Ben Ali at Keeneland, the Texas Mile at Lone Star, or the Westchester at Belmont.

"I've got to figure out one more race for him before the Met Mile," Penna said on Thursday, one day after Chatain worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Palm Meadows.

Penna said he was pleased with Chatain's performance in the Donn.

"If we had been running for second money behind Invasor he would have finished second, but because we were trying to win he wound up fourth," said Penna. "When Invasor moved too early it forced us to go early with him, and as a result my horse just got a little tired at the end."