04/04/2012 5:20PM

Wood Memorial: McNair back with Street Life

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Street Life wins the Broad Brush Stakes on March 17 at Aqueduct.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Though Bob McNair no longer maintains the presence he once did in Thoroughbred racing, the sport is never far from his consciousness.

While he is preoccupied this week with meetings for the upcoming NFL draft, McNair, owner of the Houston Texans franchise, will take time out Saturday afternoon to watch Street Life run in the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

McNair bought half-interest in Street Life, a son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, from Sergio de Sousa’s Hidden Brook Farm following a visually impressive maiden win over Aqueduct’s inner track Feb. 11. Wearing McNair’s green and white silks for the first time – which now represent his Magnolia Racing – Street Life came back to win an overnight stakes by a half-length on March 17.

“His second race was very impressive,” McNair said earlier this week by phone from his Houston office. “For a young horse to make the kind of move that he did, to weave around and go inside between horses – and that didn’t seem to faze him at all – and he still had a big finish. It was the impressive style that really caught our attention.”

[WOOD MEMORIAL: News updates, contender replays, watch the race live]

His two wins have earned Street Life a chance in the Wood Memorial, where he will face the likes of undefeated Gemologist, the 8-5 morning-line favorite from post 6, and Alpha, the Count Fleet and Withers winner, who is the 5-2 second choice and who drew the rail. Street Life, who drew post 5, was made the 4-1 third choice on Eric Donovan’s morning line over Gotham runner-up My Adonis (8-1), The Lumber Guy (8-1), Tiger Walk (15-1), Teeth of the Dog (15-1), and Casual Trick (20-1).

In the 1990s and 2000s, McNair was a major presence in racing. He and his wife Janice campaigned horses under the Stonerside Stable banner. They owned a farm in Kentucky and the former Greentree training center adjacent to Saratoga Racecourse. Following the 2008 Breeders’ Cup, the McNairs sold virtually all of their Thoroughbred racing interests – including the training center – to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum.

Before divesting, the McNairs won several major races, including two runnings of the Wood Memorial – in 2001 with Congaree and 2006 with Bob and John. Congaree, trained by Bob Baffert, went on to finish third in the Kentucky Derby, while Bob and John finished 17th. McNair also was the co-breeder of Fusaichi Pegasus who won the 2000 Wood en route to winning that year’s Kentucky Derby.

“We’ve had very good luck at the Wood Memorial, hopefully that good luck will continue,” said McNair, who has three horses with Bob Baffert in California and two with John Gosden in England. “It’s obviously a very challenging race, running against top horses, you get a good feel for what your horse can do, whether he’s competitive to go on to the Derby.”

Back in 1994, McNair was part-owner of Strodes Creek, who finished second to Go for Gin in the Derby.

“We almost won that race,” said McNair, whose partner on that horse was Arthur Hancock. “That was our first Derby experience. We felt ‘this was pretty good, we came in second, next year we’ll come back and win it.’ It doesn’t quite work that way.”

In order for Street Life to go on to the Kentucky Derby, he will most likely have to win the Wood. The lightly raced colt has yet to compete in a graded stakes, thus has no graded earnings, the criteria used to determine the field for the Kentucky Derby if more than 20 horses enter. There is also a four-horse also-eligible list.

Street Life should relish the 1 1/8 miles of the Wood. In both of his route races, he has come with a sustained late rally that carried him to victory.

“He’s a horse on the improve that I expect to take another step forward,” said Chad Brown, trainer of Street Life. “The increase in distance should help him, now it’s just a question of is he ready to compete against the horses like he’s going to face on Saturday. He warrants a chance based on what I’m seeing in training.”

McNair would like to see Street Life take the same step forward that his Texans did in 2011. His team won its first AFC South Division title as well as its first playoff game before losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round.

“We were very close, we had a lot of fun, a lot of excitement,” McNair said. “Hopefully, we’ll stay a little healthier this year.”

Douglas Rutherford More than 1 year ago
Wouldah Couldah Shouldah Didah Notah , This race would be much more appealing if Julien Leparoux had a fast Colt in this race - Ha Ha Haaa , just playn ! I think you all know where I was going with that statement huh ! Actually , Leparoux doesnt ride that way . If ya go back and really view the Florida Derby close , really close , Javier Castellano did everything in his power to see that Leparoux had No-Where to go thru-out much of the race , which cost El Padrino / Lets Go Stables / and Pletcher solid Derby earning ............ but what Javier Castellano got after the race was some hot heated exchanges about racing the race - not a jockeys race . GEMOLOGIST with Javier Castellano / Pletcher Look to be the calling for the Kentucky Derby . I see Javier Castellano riding a very smart race , using GEMOLOGIST maybe 85% - 90% to secure a Solid Top Two Finish ! GEMOLOGIST gallop-out out to be better than ever this time as well . Would have been a good story - line if Leparoux had a top contender in this race , that would have really ratled Javier Castellano abit more than he can chew . None the less , Leparoux Should Have Been Alirt Of That Happening From The Get Go . Leason Learned Hopefully ! That was the worst finish by Union Rags , but Still looked much the best after crossing the finish line thru-out the gallup-out ............................... LOTS TO LIKE IN ( UNION RAGS ) FANS ............... I Would Not Jump Off His Band Wagon Now , KENTUCKY DERBY Maybe 4 - 1 !
Mike Lee More than 1 year ago
If Gemologist doesn't beat this field easily,he really is the overhyped horse that I've suspected all along...like Street Life,but not at 4-1...he coming back off a three week layoff after winning the Broad Brush 75K,with a winning time of 1:46 4/5... beating a bunch of slow pokes!!!...Alpha @ 5/2 ...no thanks,will need to to a giant leap forward from past efforts in order to win...think My Adonis,who should be bet down to 9/2 at race time has the best chance to score the upset. ML
Todd Hess More than 1 year ago
Don't discount Street Life's effort in the Broad Brush. Granted, he didn't beat much, but he closed well into an extremely slow pace. He should get a much better pace scenario in the Wood. Now it's just a matter of class. We'll find out soon