08/07/2007 11:00PM

Street Sense works on muddy track


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A heavy rainstorm that pummeled Saratoga Race Course on Tuesday night and early Wednesday left the track sloppy for training on Wednesday morning. The inside of the main track was protected by orange cones, known as dogs, and most trainers opted to either gallop or even merely jog their runners. It was a dreary morning.

But it brightened considerably at about 7 a.m. Trainer Carl Nafzger had planned workouts for his two outstanding 3-year-olds, the colt Street Sense and the filly Lady Joanne, and after watching a couple of sets of horses train just after dawn, Nafzger decided the track was safe enough to send both out for their appointed drills.

So, the few hearty souls who braved the elements Wednesday morning were treated to the sight of the Kentucky Derby winner preparing for the Travers Stakes and one of the leading contenders for the Alabama Stakes.

Both worked a half-mile with jockey Calvin Borel aboard. Street Sense went out first and turned in the kind of flawless work he seems to produce every time. He went off easily, finished quickly, and galloped out powerfully. He was timed in 49.03 seconds, which was the best of only five works at the distance Wednesday morning.

Lady Joanne followed immediately, and showed her readiness for the Alabama with a similar move. She was timed in 49.53 seconds.

For Street Sense, Wednesday's workout was the first of three that Nafzger has planned between Julyo29, when he won the Jim Dandy Stakes, and Aug. 25, when he runs in the Grade 1, $1 million Travers at 1o1/4 miles. According to Saratoga's official clockers, Street Sense covered the opening quarter in 25.56 seconds, flew through the next quarter in 23.47 seconds, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.44.

A slow-moving galloper was positioned just outside one of the dogs at the quarter pole, so Borel cut the corner and went inside the cones, but otherwise Street Sense was well off the rail.

"It looks like he handled the mud okay," Nafzger said. "But what hasn't he handled?"

Nafzger said he thought about putting off the work. But he said he feared the track would be worse Thursday, after Wednesday's race card and the humidity worked its way into the surface.

"The track will have a sweat under it," he said.

"We didn't decide to work for sure until 15 minutes before he went out," Nafzger said. "We watched a couple of horses we know gallop, and there was no slippage. We shortened the work up from five-eighths to a half-mile. He needed something to get his blood percolating."

Borel said Street Sense "went good."

"He does anything you want," Borel said. "He takes everything in stride. He's a natural racehorse."

If Rags to Riches, as expected, passes the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on Aug. 18, Lady Joanne will be one of the top choices for the 1 1/4-mile race along with Octave. Borel was especially enthused about the progress Lady Joanne has made since coming to Saratoga from Churchill Downs.

"She's doing tremendous," Borel said. "I don't know why, but she likes it here."

"What I like about my filly," Nafzger said, "is that I don't think we've seen her best yet."

$4.6M yearling sensational in debut

Maimonides, the high-priced 2-year-old colt who was part of a shipment of horses trainer Bob Baffert sent here last week from Del Mar, turned in a dazzling performance in his debut in Wednesday's 5 1/2-furlong second race, winning by 11 1/2 lengths as the heavy favorite in 1:04.41 over a track rated good.

Maimonides ($3.10) is owned by Ahmed Zayat, who pulled his horses from Del Mar last week because he was not satisfied with the new Polytrack surface installed by the track. Zayat had a heated debate with Del Mar president Joe Harper the morning of July 30, during which Zayat said his horses would leave Del Mar.

Zayat was not at Saratoga on Wednesday, but Baffert was in attendance, and he looked both happy and relieved at the result.

"There was a lot of pressure," Baffert said. "He would have won at Del Mar, but he might have run 1:08.

"This is real racing. Racing on dirt. I'm sure there were some people at Del Mar who were not rooting for this horse, but he overcame everything."

Baffert said he hopes Del Mar ends up with a surface that is safe, yet does not negate a horse's brilliance.

"They need to blend the two together," he said. "I love Del Mar, but I don't like the surface right now."

Maimonides was purchased for $4.6 million at the Keeneland September yearling sale. He is by Vindication and is out of a mare, Silvery Swan, who has produced two stakes winners for Baffert, El Corredor and Roman Ruler.

"He does things so easy, effortlessly," Baffert said.

Baffert said the Grade 1, $250,000 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on Sept. 3 could be the next start for Maimonides.

Any Given Saturday to Brooklyn

Todd Pletcher said he is "99 percent sure" that Haskell Invitational winner Any Given Saturday will make his next start in the $150,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park on Sept. 22. The Grade 2 race would be against older horses and contested as a one-turn 1 1/8-mile race.

Pletcher believes the Travers, run here on Aug. 25, is "too close" to the Haskell and he would prefer to run Any Given Saturday just one more time between now and the $5 million Classic on Oct. 27.

"Like I said, our main focus is on the Breeders' Cup Classic," Pletcher said Wednesday morning. "Giving him a bit of space from here to the Brooklyn, we're following a very similar program to what we did going from a one-turn race at Belmont [the Dwyer] to a two-turn race at Monmouth. It gives him five weeks from the Brooklyn to the Breeders' Cup. I think it's a good set-up."

Pletcher said there is a good chance he will not run anything in the Travers, though he does plan to nominate several, including Any Given Saturday and Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches. Pletcher is likely to run Rags to Riches in the Ruffian on Sept. 8 or the Gazelle on Sept. 15.

Grass rivalry continues

Better Talk Now and English Channel both ran in the Arlington Million last year, but both are remaining at Saratoga this year for Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational at 1 1/2 miles on turf. It will be the sixth time in the last 13 months that these two outstanding long-distance grass runners have faced one another.

In their two meetings this year, Better Talk Now held off English Channel to win the Manhattan Handicap by a head, and English Channel won the United Nations for the second straight year, with Better Talk Now third.

Pletcher, who trains English Channel, said he opted for the Sword Dancer rather than the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million the same day because "we haven't gotten a peak effort" from English Channel in two prior races at Arlington.

"And his three-turn races have been pretty consistently great," Pletcher said.

In addition to Better Talk Now and English Channel, the Sword Dancer is expected to include Always First, Crown Point, Embossed, Grand Couturier, Ramazutti, and Trippi's Storm.

* Thunderestimate ($3.50), the heavy favorite, held off Logic Way through a sluggish stretch run to capture the $150,000 Cab Calloway Stakes for the 3-year-old progeny of New York-based stallions on Wednesday. Stunt Man was third. Thunderestimate was part of a contested pace, took command on the turn, then appeared vulnerable at midstretch, but he was able to last. He was timed in 1:50.62 for 1 1/8 miles on a turf course rated yielding. Edgar Prado rode Thunderestimate for trainer Carlos Martin.

* Jockey Cornelio Velasquez was suspended for seven days, beginning Monday, for a riding infraction on Sunday, but he has appealed and continues to ride.

- additional reporting by David Grening