- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

A third duel between Street Sense, Curlin and Hard Spun will have to wait at least two months.

Curlin and Hard Spun will be running in the Belmont Stakes on June 9, but Street Sense trainer Carl Nafzger removed the Kentucky Derby winner from consideration yesterday morning.

“The competitive side said, ‘Go.’ The logical side said, ‘No, no, no,’ ” Nafzger said at a Churchill Downs press conference. “I know there’s disappointment that we’re not going to the Belmont, but somewhere we want to make another stand.”

Street Sense will return to the races later this summer, and his defection left the Belmont with only five definite starters: Curlin, Hard Spun, Tiago, Imawildandcrazyguy and Slew’s Tizzy. Horses still under consideration are Circular Quay and the filly Rags to Riches.

In the Kentucky Derby, Street Sense was followed by Hard Spun and Curlin; in the Preakness Stakes, Curlin-Street Sense-Hard Spun was the order.

“I thought it was very kind of Carl to take it easy on us,” Hard Spun trainer Larry Jones quipped. “We still have to worry about holding Curlin off and everybody else, so not much will change for us.”

Street Sense worked a half-mile at Churchill Downs on Wednesday in a shade under 49 seconds. Later that night, Nafzger and owner Jim Tafel had a two-hour phone conversation before making a decision.

“I told Mr. Tafel the horse was in great shape and doing well, and we weighed all of the reasons for going and not for going,” Nafzger said.

The likely spots for Street Sense’s return are the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on July 29 or the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 5, followed by the Travers Stakes on Aug. 25. The fall campaign would include a race in early September and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 27.

“We want the Travers, and we want the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Nafzger said. “Mr. Tafel said those are worthy goals, and we didn’t want to chase over spilled water at the Belmont.”

If only five start the Belmont, it would be the smallest field since 1978 when Affirmed defeated Alydar. The last 10 Belmonts have featured an average field of about nine.

Curlin is expected to be the morning-line favorite for trainer Steve Asmussen. Hard Spun will have a new rider. Garrett Gomez replaces Mario Pino.

“It was definitely one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make,” Jones said. “We felt we would make this a one-race thing, and that’s not to say Mario won’t be back on Hard Spun later.”

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