06/11/2007 12:00AM

Triple Crown: A prelude to Travers


NEW YORK - There is so much to talk about in the wake of Rags to Riches's historic victory in Saturday's Belmont Stakes. So let's get to it:

* Rags to Riches is headed for the Travers.

Team Tabor and trainer Todd Pletcher did not take much time plotting a course of action for the first filly in more than a century to win the oldest and longest leg of the Triple Crown.

There will certainly be a great deal of clamor for a matchup in the Aug. 25 Travers Stakes among Rags to Riches, Preakness winner Curlin, who lost by a head in the Belmont, and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. Given that Rags to Riches's connections have already made the Travers their goal, maybe the racing public has a decent shot to get what it wants. But first, Rags to Riches will face members of her own sex in the Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 1/4 miles on July 21, which would give her six weeks to recover from the 1 1/2-mile Belmont.

The big question is, what happens with Rags to Riches in the fall? All of the major dirt races for females - such as the Beldame, the Spinster, and the Breeders' Cup Distaff - are run at 1 1/8 miles. Rags to Riches proved in her runaway victory in the Kentucky Oaks that she is certainly no slouch going nine furlongs. But everyone seems to agree that she is most effective going longer, which is why some folks are already setting odds lines on her participation in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic.

If it's true that Rags to Riches is only getting warmed up at 1 1/8 miles, then there are other avenues she could explore. It is still all speculation at this point, but she could tackle older males a bit earlier in the prestigious Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles. Or, Rags to Riches could even try turf. She's bred for it. Arc de Triomphe, anyone?

* The first Eclipse Award of 2007 has already been clinched.

It doesn't matter where she runs, or even how successful she is from this point forward, Rags to Riches is the champion 3-year-old filly of 2007. Cotton Blossom, who upset the Grade 1 Acorn on Saturday on the Belmont Stakes undercard, could go on to win every Grade 1 filly race Rags to Riches passes on, and Dream Rush, who was nailed in the Acorn, could go on to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint. It doesn't matter. There can be no other outcome than Rags to Riches being divisional champion after she became the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont, and the first filly since Ruthless won the very first Belmont Stakes in 1867 to win this classic at a distance as far as 1o1/2 miles.

* Where does Curlin rank against Street Sense now in the wake of his narrow loss in the Belmont?

Even though Street Sense finished eight lengths in front of Curlin when he won the Kentucky Derby, it was very clear after Curlin edged Street Sense in the Preakness that Curlin's inexperience played a big role in the gap between these two in the Derby, and that the real difference between these colts is paper-thin.

Curlin did everything right in the Belmont, with the solitary exception of getting his head down in front of Rags to Riches at the wire. Still, you really can't say Curlin has overtaken Street Sense in a meaningful way, not off a loss. But Curlin does deserve extra points, if you will, for competing in all three Triple Crown races when Street Sense did not. And Curlin certainly earned a great deal of admiration for being as tough as he is talented and holding excellent form throughout the Triple Crown, especially when you consider how busy his schedule has been since he began his career only last February.

* This was an outstanding Triple Crown season.

"Short of having a Triple Crown winner, this year's Triple Crown was as good as it could be," Lynne Veitch said at a post-Belmont Stakes party Saturday night. She would know. Her late husband, Leo, was a longtime trainer, her late brother-in-law, Sylvester, is in the Hall of Fame as a trainer, and her nephew, John Veitch, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. And she is right.

Street Sense was sensational winning the Derby while also striking a big blow against what was an increasing disconnect between top 2-year-old and top 3-year-old form. The Preakness was one of those rare races that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up and made you forget what your financial stake in it was. And the Belmont, from the standpoint of sheer theater and because of the historical implications, managed to surpass the Preakness.

The 2008 Triple Crown class has a lot to live up to.