04/30/2007 11:00PM

Street Sense lays down challenge

Email

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Making a top selection for the 2006 Kentucky Derby became elementary after watching Barbaro's final work leading up to the race. Selecting the most likely winner for the year's edition of the Run for the Roses became similarly clear here Tuesday after Street Sense turned in a five-furlong drill that couldn't have been more impressive.

Street Sense's work was certainly the highlight on another unseasonably warm morning, which also featured an unscheduled and unofficial breeze by Cobalt Blue, who subsequently dropped out of the Derby, along with the first local appearances of Tiago and Stormello, who both arrived from California the previous afternoon.

Work of the day

Street Sense (five furlongs in 1:00.68): Perfect. That's the one word that comes to mind to describe Street Sense's final Derby drill. A second might simply be wow!

Street Sense made another grand appearance as he walked onto the racetrack under regular rider Calvin Borel at 7 a.m. and backtracked the wrong way near the outside fence accompanied by a stable pony. After standing for several minutes, he turned around and made his way slowly to the five-furlong pole, then was well within himself as he broke off to begin the drill. Street Sense appeared to be in little more than a gallop down the backstretch, going an opening eighth in a pedestrian 13.48 seconds before gradually picking up speed into the turn. He completed a quarter-mile in 25.92 and as he left the three-furlong marker one could see an almost imperceptible change of gears, seemingly without any urging from Borel. Coming off the final turn, after three-eighths in 37.86, Street Sense was really beginning to reach out while barely leaving any room between himself and the inside rail. The reigning juvenile champion passed the eighth pole in 49.30 and continued to fly effortlessly through the stretch with barely a hint of movement from his rider. Street Sense covered his final two furlongs in 11.44 and 11.38, then continued to fly through his gallop-out, completing six furlongs in 1:13.04. He then remained glued to the inside fence while barely losing any momentum, completing seven furlongs in 1:25.98 before pulling up a mile (that's a triple gallop-out folks!) in 1:41.38. Couldn't be doing better. Loves the course. Hard not to believe now that he's the one to beat on Saturday.

Cobalt Blue (seven furlongs in 1:26.17 from the three-eighths to half-mile pole): Trainer Doug O'Neill was looking for Cobalt Blue to gallop at a two-minute clip, which means somewhere between a regular gallop and a timed workout. And that's the pace at which he went until hitting the three-furlong pole, when he suddenly began to accelerate, clipping off splits of 12 and change or faster right around to the seven-furlong pole to complete an unconventional seven-eighths of a mile in 1:26.17 while under little urging from exercise rider Tony Romero. This was a reversal from his disappointing official work at Keeneland just four days earlier, and an indication of either a preference for the Churchill Downs strip or the fact he's now more focused since putting blinkers on Sunday. So it was all the more surprising when it was announced several hours later that Cobalt Blue would not be entered in the Derby.

O'Neill's two remaining Derby runners also had a good morning, particularly Great Hunter who continues to make a very favorable impression. He has a regal look about him when he gallops, neck bowed, even at the relatively slow pace he began at this morning, although he did pick up the pace and was a bit of a handful to pull up as he finally eased up around the far turn. Great Hunter avoided a potentially disastrous situation when he was deftly picked up by the outrider after stepping out of the five-furlong gap just as a loose horse approached.

Liquidity, O'Neill's second Derby starter, was much more relaxed than the previous morning when he came out right after the renovation break and tried to run off briefly with Romero amidst a bevy of other workers on the track. He did not come out this morning until 9oa.m., when activity on the racetrack was much lighter.

Neither Stormello nor Tiago looked particularly comfortable during their first visit to the track following their trip from the West Coast. Stormello doesn't appear as robust as he did on his first visit to Gulfstream Park, when he ran a huge race in the Fountain of Youth. Tiago was not striding out particularly well, although that might have been a function of the tight hold his rider had and it will be interesting to see how he progresses when allowed to do more over the next several mornings.