06/16/2002 11:00PM

Street Cry puts U.S. on notice

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NEW YORK - Street Cry's excellent performance in Saturday's Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs was a major racing development. And when you consider some ancillary factors, Street Cry's victory Saturday may possibly prove to be the watershed moment of this racing season.

For one, Street Cry singlehandedly ended the funk his stable, Godolphin Racing, had been in since it returned to this country from winter quarters in Dubai.

It started with the sudden and shocking death of last year's champion 2-year-old filly, Tempera, mere days before she was to race in the Kentucky Oaks. Then, the horses Godolphin did race did not perform well. Imperial Gesture bombed in the Kentucky Oaks. Essence of Dubai flopped in the Kentucky Derby and then later in the Belmont Stakes. Infinite Spirit ran miserably in the Nassau County Stakes opening weekend at Belmont Park. Less than an hour before the Foster, E Dubai failed as the favorite in the Brooklyn Handicap.

The only winner that I know Godolphin had since returning to the States was Dubai Tiger, and that was as the heavy favorite against a modest field of maidens at Belmont. In other words, Godolphin was ice-cold here until Street Cry stepped up to the plate.

Not only did Street Cry overcome the negative momentum of a barn slump, he did so with such a vengeance as if to make up for his barnmates. In the process, he staked a claim to being the best horse in the world. Street Cry proved his blowout victory in the Dubai World Cup last March was for real. He would have won the Foster, his first start since the World Cup, by plenty more than 6 1/2 lengths had he been asked to run.

In the process, he humbled Congaree. Congaree, who finished distant sixth as the favorite, beaten 11 1/2 lengths, had been considered at least on a par with the likes of Mizzen Mast and Macho Uno, who up until Saturday were considered to be among the best older horses in this country.

It was said best by Jerry Bailey, who is now 2 for 2 on Street Cry since first climbing aboard him in the Dubai World Cup. "I know Congaree is a good horse," Bailey told a national television audience, "but this horse is great."

Jockeys have to be diplomatic when they speak publicly. In order to protect their business, they don't often say anything controversial so as not to run the risk of burning bridges. But this situation is different. Bailey is so good that the top outfits in the game will line up for his services no matter what he may say, and Godolphin has gone out of their way in the past to secure Bailey, just as they did when they got him to ride Street Cry in the Dubai Cup. So when Bailey said what he said about Street Cry, it didn't sound like "jockeyspeak." And remember, Bailey has the perspective to tell the good horses from the ones who are even better.