10/21/2007 11:00PM

Street Sense taking it easy at the shore

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Street Sense, one of the first Breeders' Cup horses to arrive at Monmouth, will work Saturday.
OCEANPORT, N.J. - It would not be altogether unreasonable to think that Carl Nafzger and Street Sense got to Monmouth Park just so they could hurry up and wait. As Street Sense stood in the back of his stall early Saturday, all alone in Barn 8, Nafzger peeked in on his stable star.

"Son of a gun's in there asleep," he said with a smile.

With only maybe a dozen of the 141 pre-entered Breeders' Cup horses stabled on the Monmouth backstretch as of Saturday morning, Street Sense was the glaring exception to the unspoken rule of shipping only when you absolutely need to ship. Nafzger and his wife, Wanda, took a leisurely drive from Louisville, Ky., over a two-day span before meeting up with several staff members and Street Sense, the colt who will be among the star attractions when the 24th Breeders' Cup World Championships are run here Friday and Saturday.

Street Sense pulled through the Monmouth stable gate before dawn Friday following an overnight van ride from Churchill Downs, and some 24 hours later, he started out slowly on what will be the final week of prerace rituals in a storybook career that ends in the $5 million BC Classic. Tracey Wilkes climbed aboard the colt for about 20 minutes of light maneuvering around the shed row Saturday morning, a training exercise that was to be followed by racetrack gallops Sunday and Monday, then a prerace blowout Tuesday.

"He'll jog Wednesday, like we always do after a work," said Nafzger, "and he'll walk Thursday. I'm also going to try to school him in the paddock Thursday, but I've got to check with the folks here first to see if it's okay" - as if a Kentucky Derby winner preparing for the richest race in North America would be turned down for something so routine.

A handful of photographers were here Saturday to document whatever Street Sense was doing, with one of them dolefully saying the highlight of the morning "was him getting his sponge bath." Soon enough, however, the tempo will pick up, and surely Nafzger will be asked on innumerable occasions to regale the media about his first experience at Monmouth.

"It was 1977," he recalled, "and Wanda and I drove through the stable gate with our Chevy Vega hatchback packed with everything we owned. We were broke and starving."

That was still five years before Nafzger would begin training horses for Frances Genter, who helped turn Nafzger's career around with a stable of top-class racehorses, most notably Unbridled, the 1990 Horse of the Year. This week, 30 years after first being stabled here as a nomadic nobody, Nafzger plans to enjoy every minute of Breeders' Cup Week.

"It's all coming down to this," he said.

* The first large group of shippers from western destinations was scheduled to pull into Monmouth late Saturday afternoon. A charter flight carrying eight Breeders' Cup starters and other horses from Southern California was scheduled to arrive at Atlantic City International Airport, about two hours south of Monmouth, after stopping in Lexington, Ky. Among the Breeders' Cup horses on the flight were Tiago and Balance.

* High temperatures Saturday in the Jersey Shore area were in the mid-70s, and much of the same was forecast through Wednesday. By Thursday, slightly cooler weather was forecast, with a high of 67 for Friday and 69 for Saturday. Scattered showers are in the long-range forecast for both Breeders' Cup dates.

* Overnight rain left the Monmouth main track muddy for Saturday morning training, although by noon the strip had dried out considerably and appeared as if it would have been ideal to run the Breeders' Cup races that afternoon. Still, perhaps in large part because of the muddy conditions, only eight workouts were recorded in the morning, none by BC runners.