07/31/2002 11:00PM

Street Cry: From whisper to a scream


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Two years later, you can still hear the irritation in Eoin Harty's voice.

Harty was the trainer of Street Cry during his 2-year-old season. After winning his maiden by seven lengths in his second career start, Street Cry was narrowly defeated in a pair of graded stakes by the Bob Baffert-trained Flame Thrower.

Automatically, Street Cry was branded as a hanger, a horse who wouldn't go by other horses in the stretch.

"He kind of got a bad reputation for not wanting to go by horses and not being very genuine, it was really irritating to me," Harty said the other day from California. "I knew that wasn't the case."

This year, the rest of the world has found out what Harty know all along. Coming off dominant victories in the Dubai World Cup and Stephen Foster Handicap, enters Saturday's $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga as the leading handicap horse in the world and a top candidate for North American Horse of the Year honors.

"I always knew he was very, very talented," said Harty, who worked as an assistant to Baffert for several years before taking a job with Godolphin. "He was as talented as any 2-year-old I've ever been around with Bob. Those two races, when he hooked up with Flame Thrower were huge races, huge Beyer numbers. I feel kind of vindicated now that he's one of the best horses in the country."

Harty will be at Saratoga on Saturday, but he no longer trains Street Cry. Harty's job is to develop Godolphin's 2-year-olds and turn them over to Saeed bin Suroor in Dubai. It is Suroor's task to finish getting the good ones ready for the Kentucky Derby.

Street Cry finished his 2-year-old season with a third-place finish behind Macho Uno and Point Given in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The 1 1/2-length loss was the largest margin by which Street Cry has lost.

After winning his 3-year-old debut and then finishing second, beaten a head by stablemate Express Tour, in the UAE Derby, Street Cry was on course for the Kentucky Derby. But he injured an ankle 10 days before the race and was not entered. It's an injury the Godolphin camp rues to this day.

"Street Cry was the best horse we brought over for the race," said Tom Albertrani, who serves as Suroor's American-based assistant. "I think this is a serious racehorse."

The ankle injury took longer to heal than Albertrani had hoped, and Street Cry missed the important races of his 3-year-old season. With an eye toward Street Cry's 4-year-old campaign, Godolphin ran him in the Discovery Handicap last October at Aqueduct, where, as the 4-5 favorite, he was upset by 65-1 Evening Attire. "He might have needed the race," Albertrani said.

He hasn't lost since.

Street Cry won the Maktoum Challenge by 8 1/2 lengths before galloping to a 4 1/4-length victory in the $6 million Dubai World Cup. Street Cry returned to the U.S. in April, and made a mockery of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs without ever feeling the wrath of Jerry Bailey's whip.

Shortly after the Foster, Street Cry developed a minor infection that forced him to miss the Suburban, won by his stablemate E Dubai. After a number of workouts at Belmont Park, Street Cry arrived in Saratoga Thursday ready to tackle the likes of Macho Uno, Lido Palace, Left Bank, and Unshaded.

"Lido Palace is subject to improve and Left Bank is coming of a big race, if he gets loose on the he could be tough to reel in," Albertrani said. "But our horse is a very tough horse. I still think he's the one to beat."