Switch for `Street,' Hard Spun

Derby's one-two swap positions in starting gate

Jones hopes it's an omen

Preakness

May 17, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Maybe it's the first sign of a reversal of fortune - and maybe not. But Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and second-place finisher Hard Spun drew each other's Derby starting gate numbers yesterday for Saturday's 132nd Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

"This time, we got the seven hole and they got the eight," said Hard Spun's trainer, Larry Jones. "Maybe that means this time we'll get the win and he gets second."

If that was supposed to put pressure on Street Sense trainer Carl Nafzger, Jones will have to try again. After Street Sense was made the morning-line favorite at 7-5, Nafzger said he simply eats up pressure.

"If you feel pressure, you can't play the game," Nafzger said. "You've got to enjoy this heat."

Nafzger, who was once a rodeo bull rider and has the scars to prove it, said going for the second leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday is not pressure to him.

"I rode bulls," he said. "The high point for me was riding unridden bulls, bulls other people couldn't ride. I just liked it, and I'll tell you what - this is fun. That's all I can tell you. I love this kind of pressure.

"You know, [golfer] Lee Trevino said pressure is not when you're trying to win the big tournaments; it's when you're trying to win the little $5,000 tournaments and you haven't got $5,000 to your name."

Street Sense and his connections have plenty of money, but that won't get them a victory Saturday. Instead, they'll have to outrun eight other horses who were also touting their abilities yesterday after drawing starting positions at the ESPN Zone in the Inner Harbor.

Hard Spun was made the second choice at 5-2, and Curlin, the third-place Derby finisher, will start in Post 4 as the third betting choice at 7-2.

The longest shot in the field, at 30-1, is Mint Slewlep, trained at the Bowie Training Center by Rob Bailes. He'll start on the rail beside Xchanger, owned by Baltimorean Domenico Zannino and trained by Mark Shuman at Fair Hill Training Center.

"If you'd asked me before they started drawing numbers, I would have said I'd like the five hole," Shuman said. "But the way it came out with Flying First Class in the six and Hard Spun in seven, this is very good. I'm relieved not to be in the one. I didn't want to get trapped on the rail. This is a good position [at Post 2] for us, and if Street Sense is going to get by us, he'll have to go over us, because he's not going inside of my horse."

Jones and Hard Spun could have used a trainer with that attitude in Louisville, where Street Sense and jockey Calvin Borel rode the rail from 19th to third before swinging outside and running down Hard Spun.

Yesterday, Nafzger was asked about that open rail and why he thought Liquidity - who had the rail - moved over at the perfect time to let Street Sense by.

"He didn't move over to let us by," Nafzger said. "He moved over because if he didn't, he would have clicked heels with Sedgefield, who was in front of him at the time. He had to move over to find running room. Calvin was just sitting there waiting to see what would happen. If the horse hadn't moved over, he would have ducked outside and still have had a shot.

"Agility is one of his best qualities."

As veteran trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a five-time Preakness winner, looked at the field, he said his Flying First Class' best quality is his speed and he will not be shy coming out of the gate.

"No one in this field is faster than my horse early on," Lukas said. "This is the fastest horse - early on - that I've ever had in the Preakness. He'll have something to say in dictating the pace."

Will Flying First Class steal a victory off the lead? Will Curlin power past everyone? Will Hard Spun? Will Shuman get his wish to smell black-eyed Susans in the winner's circle?

Asked to rate his chances against the field, Nafzger laughed.

"I don't handicap," he said. "Most of the time, I don't even know the names of the other horses in the race."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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