There may be no Sense in running Belmont

Without Triple Crown, horse’s trainer says “no reason” to race.
Monday, May 21, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:33 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008
When Curlin, left, passed Street Sense in the final moments to win the Preakness, it ended Street Sense’s Triple Crown run.

BALTIMORE — No Triple, no buzz.

And maybe no Kentucky Derby winner for the Belmont Stakes, either.

Belmont stakes

The third leg of the Triple Crown will take place on June 9. Horses possibly running the race include Chelokee, Cristobal, Curlin, Great Hunter, Hard Spun, Imawildandcrazyguy, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Rags to Riches, Slew’s Tizzy and Tiago.

On the morning after Curlin edged Street Sense by a head in the Preakness, trainer Carl Nafzger said he’s leaning against running Derby winner Street Sense in the Belmont on June 9.

“Right now, I don’t think we probably will,” Nafzger said Sunday. “There’s not really any reason to go there right now.”

Nafzger could change his mind after talking with owner James Tafel, but even if Street Sense shows up the Belmont won’t be the same without a Triple on the line.

“If the Derby winner becomes the Preakness winner, I call my wife and tell her ’I’ll see you in three weeks,” said John Lee, New York Racing Association’s director of communications. “When this happens, you aren’t going to go absolutely nuts for three weeks, but you’re also saying, ‘Oh man, this would have been big.’”

Racing fans were getting used to Triple tries at Belmont, with six in the previous 10 years. But this is the third year in a row without an attempt to crown the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.

However, an intriguing field for the 1½-mile Belmont remains possible — even the filly Rags to Riches is under consideration.

Curlin is a rising 3-year-old star after just five career starts, and likely would be the favorite. The chestnut colt won his first three starts by a combined 281/2 lengths, then finished third in the Derby despite a troubled trip in the early stages.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said Curlin came out of the Preakness somewhat weary — “he definitely knows he ran.” Asmussen wouldn’t commit to the Belmont, but he’s thinking big with his first Classic winner.

“This is the stage this horse deserves and those are the caliber of races he is intended for,” the trainer said, referring to the Belmont and other Grade 1 races. “It will be up to him physically. Our job is to make sure he is prepared for it.”

Hard Spun, second in the Derby and third in the Preakness, likely will try again in the Belmont. Trainer Larry Jones figures it’s his turn to win.

“We got beat by two really good horses, we sure don’t have anything to be ashamed of,” Jones said. “Carl and Steve are both very nice guys, and I’m sure if all three go to Belmont, they’re going to feel sorry for him (Hard Spun) and let me have one.”

Other Belmont contenders include four Derby starters — Imawildandcrazyguy (fourth), Tiago (seventh), Nobiz Like Shobiz (10th) and Great Hunter (13th). Also on the list are Chelokee, trainer Michael Matz’s colt who won the Barbaro Stakes on Saturday, Lone Star Derby winner Slew’s Tizzy and Cristobal, who has run twice in France.

Rags to Riches, trained by Todd Pletcher, is the nation’s top filly coming off a victory in the Kentucky Oaks. Pletcher’s Triple Crown race record stands at 0-for-28 after Circular Quay finished fifth and King of the Roxy was sixth in the Preakness.

Two of the 21 fillies who ran in the Belmont have won ­— Ruthless in 1867 and Tanya in 1905. The last to compete was Silverbulletday, who finished seventh in 1999.

Soaring By, also trained by Pletcher, and several other horses who ran in Saturday’s Peter Pan at Belmont Park could end up in the Belmont, too.

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