07/29/2007 12:00AM

Street Sense ready for second act

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Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Street Sense has not run since losing to Curlin in the Preakness in May.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It's time to run.

With those words early Friday morning, trainer Carl Nafzger confirmed that the second half of Street Sense's 3-year-old campaign will begin in Sunday's Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. It will mark the first appearance at Saratoga by a Kentucky Derby winner in the year he won the Derby since Thunder Gulch won the 1995 Travers.

Street Sense will meet five rivals in the Jim Dandy, including the undefeated Tiz Wonderful, who suffered a tendon injury in January and will be making his first start since last November. The field also includes Peter Pan winner Sightseeing, Preakness fourth-place finisher C P West, Illinois Derby winner Cowtown Cat, and Iowa Derby runner-up Flashstorm.

Street Sense, owned and bred by Jim Tafel, has not run since losing a heart-breaking head decision to Curlin in the Preakness in May. After his connections opted to skip the Belmont Stakes, Street Sense got a brief respite before returning to the work tab on June 24.

He signaled his readiness for his return with a scintillating five-furlong breeze in 57.20 seconds on July 19 at Churchill Downs. He completed preparations for the Jim Dandy with a half-mile move in 51.59 on Thursday over Saratoga's main track.

Nafzger said he is very pleased with how well Street Sense has matured during his downtime, and believes he made the right call in skipping the Belmont.

"It was time to grow and time to develop," Nafzger said. "The Belmont would have been fine - it didn't look like it hurt Curlin any - but our horse had a hard campaign. Time always helps a good horse at a certain time."

Nafzger said winning the Jim Dandy isn't as important to him as making sure the horse runs his race and gets enough out of it to be ready for the $1 million Travers here on Aug. 25.

"He may come up a little short," said Nafzger, whose horse will break from post 3 under Calvin Borel and high weight of 123 pounds. "Somebody may get the jump on him; I just want him to execute. His fitness and his timing will get where he needs to be. I want him to win, but the main thing is I want him to execute."

The prospect of an off track - there is a 60 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms beginning Saturday - doesn't concern Nafzger unless the rain is so torrential that it creates a safety issue with the track.

"He's run in the slop," said Nafzger, referring to Street Sense's third-place finish in the Arlington-Washington Futurity. "If it gets too bad and you get to the base, that's a different deal."

Finding a horse to beat Street Sense is difficult. The next most accomplished horse in the field is Tiz Wonderful, who as a 2-year-old won a maiden race here by 12 1/2 lengths, then shipped to Churchill where he won the Iroquois and Kentucky Jockey Club in the fall.

He suffered a tendon injury while training at Fair Grounds in mid-January and was ruled off the Triple Crown trail. According to trainer Steve Asmussen, Tiz Wonderful was idle for only 30 days before resuming light training.

Asmussen said a major factor in deciding where to train and run Tiz Wonderful was choosing tracks where he was comfortable as a 2-year-old - meaning Churchill Downs and Saratoga.

"It being a tendon injury, how a surface feels to him is everything," Asmussen said. "That's our focus, not who shows up to be in these races."

While Asmussen said he feels "very good" about Tiz Wonderful's training and conditioning leading up to this race, he isn't expecting to beat Street Sense.

"To realistically think you're going to beat Street Sense with a horse that is coming off that kind of a layoff is pretty wild," Asmussen said. "I'm definitely somebody who has an enormous amount of respect for Street Sense and definitely do know what it takes to beat him, and that's a great horse with a great effort."

Tiz Wonderful breaks from post 5 under John Velazquez.

Trainer Shug McGaughey decided to skip the classics with Wood Memorial runner-up Sightseeing, believing his horse needed more time to develop mentally. He will begin to find out if his plan worked on Sunday. Since the Wood, Sightseeing has won the Peter Pan and finished third in the Dwyer.

"He's doing very, very well," McGaughey said. "I think he'll really like going around two turns, going a mile and an eighth. If the track is sloppy, he'll like that. The competition I don't know about. That's something we're going to have to see."

Cowtown Cat, who finished 20th in the Kentucky Derby, would have to improve dramatically to pull the upset, as would C P West and Flashstorm.