05/30/2007 11:00PM

Street Sense out of Belmont

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Street Sense's owner, Jim Tafel (left), and trainer, Carl Nafzger, are aiming for the Travers and Breeders' Cup Classic with the Kentucky Derby-winning colt.

Immediately following the heartbreaking loss by Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in the Preakness Stakes, trainer Carl Nafzger said he would not run in the Belmont Stakes on June 9. For the next week and a half, though, he wavered. But on Thursday, Nafzger fell back on his first thought. He announced, after consulting Wednesday night with owner Jim Tafel, that Street Sense would bypass the final and longest leg of the Triple Crown.

Nafzger said Street Sense would instead have two major objectives the rest of the year, the Travers Stakes Aug. 25 at Saratoga, and the Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. No horse has ever won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Derby, Travers, and Classic, a superfecta Nafzger said "would be history."

Had Street Sense run in the Belmont, that too would have been history. Curlin, who won the Preakness after finishing third in the Derby, and Hard Spun, who was second in the Derby and third in the Preakness, both are heading to Belmont Park for the 1 1/2-mile race. Had all three run, it would have been the first time the same three horses took the first three spots in the Derby and Preakness and then competed in the Belmont.

Without Street Sense, the Belmont is not nearly as alluring. His defection leaves five horses - Curlin, Hard Spun, Imawildandcrazyguy, Slew's Tizzy, and Tiago - as definite runners. Curlin figures to be a solid favorite over Hard Spun.

Trainer Todd Pletcher is still contemplating whether to run Circular Quay, who was sixth in the Derby and fifth in the Preakness, or the filly Rags to Riches, the Kentucky Oaks winner who is a half-sister to last year's Belmont winner, Jazil. Pletcher had said he did not want to face Curlin, Hard Spun, and Street Sense.

"I think that's very interesting," Pletcher said from his Belmont barn when informed of Nafzger's decision. "Obviously it takes a quality horse out of the mix. We'll continue to monitor how our horses train. They'll work on Sunday, and we'll make a decision sometime Tuesday."

Pletcher said if he did run in the Belmont it would be with one of his horses, not both.

Entries for the 139th Belmont are to be taken, and post positions drawn, on Wednesday.

Nafzger said not being able to go for a Triple Crown sweep was a major factor in the decision. He described the Preakness loss as "devastating."

Nafzger said Tafel "wanted to win the Triple Crown like you wouldn't believe," and that "it really deflated us when we got beat."

"We really wanted to win the Triple Crown," Nafzger said on a conference call. "As sportsmen, we thought, 'Let's go kick Curlin's butt in the Belmont.' But we had to decide whether to go to the Belmont to end his spring campaign, or go to the Travers to start a fall campaign. We blew the Triple Crown. Now we're trying to put it back together.

"I'm disappointed we blew the Preakness, and we blew it."

Nafzger said Street Sense was in good shape physically. He worked an easy half-mile at Churchill Downs on Wednesday.

"He's ready to go," Nafzger said. "I'd never use that as an excuse."

By stopping now, Nafzger said he believes he can get Street Sense back to the races quicker this summer than if he were to go to the Belmont.

"He could give 110 percent in the Belmont, but could he come back and give 110 percent in the Travers, and still be on a campaign to give 110 percent in the Breeders' Cup?" Nafzger said. "It's like a running back. You need some time off. You get tired of putting pads on every day and running wind sprints."

With the Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park, Nafzger said that makes a race like Monmouth's Haskell Invitational an appealing option as a prep for the Travers. His other option is Saratoga's Jim Dandy Stakes.

"That definitely makes the Haskell attractive," Nafzger said. "But I'm not about to make a decision now."

Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Curlin, was diplomatic when asked about Street Sense's defection.

"That's Mr. Nafzger's decision," Asmussen said. "I was sure he was going to do what's right by the horse."

Larry Jones, the trainer of Hard Spun, joked, "I thought it was kind of Carl to take it easy on us.

"I can do without him," Jones said, referring to Street Sense.

Hard Spun is scheduled to travel by van from Delaware Park to Belmont Park on Saturday, with a work scheduled at Belmont on Monday, Jones said.

Curlin is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on Monday and then fly to New York on Tuesday along with Slew's Tizzy, who is scheduled to work Saturday in Kentucky.

Imawildandcrazyguy and Tiago both got to Belmont Park on Wednesday. Tiago went to the track for the first time on Thursday to gallop 1 1/2 miles, while Imawildandcrazyguy merely walked at his barn.

Hard Spun deal in the making

Negotiations to syndicate Hard Spun are close to being finalized, and the deal would require the colt to be retired at the end of this year, Rick Porter, whose Fox Hill Farms owns Hard Spun, said Thursday.

"I've had very serious negotiations on his breeding rights," Porter said in a telephone interview. "Nothing's finalized, and it won't be until after the Belmont Stakes. But it's very close."

Porter declined to say which farm had emerged as the front-runner to acquire Hard Spun, but said every entity with whom he had dealt stipulated that Hard Spun enter stud in 2008.

"It's very difficult to find someone who will negotiate to let him race after his 3-year-old year," Porter said. "Nobody will allow me to do more than retire him after the Breeders' Cup Classic. As an owner, thinking about his value, with a horse with his pedigree, you've got so much at risk. You've got to make a deal. To me, as a businessman, I have to protect my interests."

Hard Spun, who is by Danzig and is out of the Turkoman mare Turkish Tryst, has won 5 times in 8 starts.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee