04/23/2007 11:00PM

Street Sense a real pro in work

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Street Sense, with Calvin Borel riding, works five furlongs at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning, going around easily in 59 seconds flat.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There is a scene depicted in the baseball book, "Ball Four," where author Jim Bouton watches a young teammate taking imaginary swings in the clubhouse before the Seattle Pilots' first game of the 1969 American League season.

Bouton, an aging veteran, later wrote that he caught himself thinking something like this: "If you don't have it down by now, son, you never will."

Trainer Carl Nafzger pretty much told a dozen or so reporters the same story after he sent out Street Sense, one of the top contenders for the 133rd Kentucky Derby, through a flawless five-furlong workout in 59 seconds Tuesday morning over a fast Churchill Downs main track.

"If you're not ready now, don't enter," said Nafzger. "If you're not ready by now, believe me, it's too late."

Indeed, with a veritable parade of workouts still to come at Churchill, where the Derby will be run May 5, Nafzger's salient point is that form has been established, the most important details already have been addressed, and virtually everything else that follows is little more than window dressing. To that end, Nafzger expected nothing less than a no-nonsense, professional drill from Street Sense, one that will set up the colt for a final blowout early next week. In fact, even before Calvin Borel, the colt's regular rider, had Street Sense rolling in the clubhouse turn, Nafzger joked, "Let's just save a lot of the questions you're going to ask afterward - the work's going to be perfect."

Street Sense, the only Derby contender to record a workout on an otherwise quiet Tuesday morning, came out with the third set of Nafzger horses shortly after 7 a.m. Eastern on a warm, humid morning that dawned following intermittent showers through the night. Over an unharrowed and relatively dry track, and with Borel wasting little time, Street Sense eagerly jogged around clockwise to the frontside, and before long the colt was galloping headstrong into the work. Leaving the clubhouse turn, and already with a full head of steam where the six-furlong pole sits at the entrance to the backstretch, Street Sense floated effortlessly to the five-furlong pole, from where he went in splits of 12.40, 24.40, 36.40, and 47.80 seconds before completing the work in 59, tied for the fastest of 36 works at the distance.

The gallop-out time for six furlongs was 1:11.40, and Nafzger, as he himself had predicted minutes earlier, could not have been more satisfied.

"Like I said, a perfect work," he said.

"Everything was great, boss," said Borel. "This horse is ready."

As Street Sense cooled out at Nafzger's longtime headquarters, Barn 26 in the Churchill stable area, the trainer answered the media's questions for about 20 minutes, never wavering in the confidence he has shown in Street Sense since the colt won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall by a record 10 lengths.

"I told Calvin, what I wanted here, the horse is fit," said Nafzger. "I'm not going to worry about his fitness. I just want you to make him happy. Let the horse enjoy what he enjoys doing. He likes to run. He did everything exactly right, just like he always has. There's really not a lot more to say than that."

Since his BC Juvenile triumph, Street Sense, a Street Cry colt bred and owned by Jim Tafel, has had two prep races at 3, winning by a nose in the March 17 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, then losing by a nose in the April 14 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. With little or no variation to the original blueprint that Nafzger mapped out last fall, Street Sense remains on schedule for the eighth and biggest race of his career. A final half-mile blowout of "a half-mile, maybe five-eighths," will come within the next few days, said Nafzger. "What day? I'll make that decision later on."

Street Sense figures no worse than second choice, perhaps behind Curlin, in the Derby, which appears highly likely to be oversubscribed when entries are taken next Wednesday. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters, with eligibility determined by . As of Tuesday afternoon, the connections of at least 27 3-year-olds were still interested in running their horses. A firm decision on one of the horses who would make the field but is not fully committed, Xchanger, probably will be made no later than Friday, trainer Mark Shuman told Churchill officials Tuesday.

Barbaro, Jacksons to be honored

Churchill will honor the late winner of the 2006 Derby, Barbaro, and his owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, during a winner's circle ceremony between the sixth and seventh races on Derby Day. In a Tuesday press release, Churchill's president, Steve Sexton, said the reason for the special recognition was because of the way "the Jacksons and their brave horse proved themselves true champions" in the eight-plus months that followed the grave injury Barbaro suffered in the Preakness.