- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

The top three finishers in last weekend’s Kentucky Derby have been confirmed for the Preakness Stakes on May 19 and could be joined by as many as seven other horses.

Street Sense, Hard Spun and Curlin — 1-2-3 at Churchill Downs — are expected to be the top favorites for the 1 3/16-race at Pimlico Race Course. It marks only the third time in the past eight years the top three Derby runners have come back on two weeks rest.

Street Sense and Hard Spun were all but confirmed for the race the day after the Derby, but Curlin trainer Steve Asmussen waited until mid-week and had discussions with the colt’s five owners before making the decision.

“The only hesitation was waiting for him to go back to the track and see where he was at,” Asmussen said during a teleconference yesterday. “I’m very pleased with how he came out of the race physically but I wanted to make sure he was still there.”

Teuflesberg, 17th in the Derby (beaten by nearly 36 lengths), is the only other Derby horse moving on to Baltimore. Sedgefield, fifth at Churchill Downs as the longest shot in the race (59-to-1) was removed from consideration Wednesday by trainer Darrin Miller, who will rest his horse until the Ohio Derby on June 2 and then likely move to the turf.

Other Preakness probable starters are: Mint Slewlep, C P West, King of the Roxy, Chelokee, Xchanger and one D. Wayne Lukas-trained horse, Flying First Class or Starbase. Of that group, none has won a Grade I race and only King of the Roxy has won a Grade II race.

None of the expected competitors has ever raced at Pimlico.

Street Sense won the Derby by 21/4 lengths following a sensational move around the second turn that saw him go from 17th to third in two furlongs. He passed Hard Spun with a furlong remaining.

“I think our business needs new heroes and I think we’re obligated to run because I think this industry is crying for a Triple Crown winner,” Street Sense owner/breeder Jim Tafel said.

Affirmed was the last Triple Crown winner 29 years ago and 10 horses — most recently Smarty Jones in 2004 — have won the Derby and Preakness but failed in the Belmont.

Training at Delaware Park, Hard Spun returned to the track and was so fresh, trainer Larry Jones let the colt jog a half-mile and gallop one mile.

“I expected to take him out just to walk around a little bit, sight see and do some jogging and that would be it,” Jones said. “But he acted like he wanted to do more. He came out of the Derby remarkably well, much better than I expected.”

Jones expects Hard Spun, who led the entire Derby until being passed by Street Sense, to arrive in Baltimore on Wednesday.

Curlin’s third-place finish was the best for a horse who didn’t race as a 2-year old since Strodes Creek ran second in 1994. Curlin — with a 3-for-4 career record — will again be the most lightly raced horse in the field.

“He beat 17 of the best 3-year olds in the country at one time,” Asmussen said. “I don’t know if he’ll improve [entering the Preakness] but I don’t expect any drop-off. His inexperience will now say that he’s a fresher horse simply because he doesn’t have the miles and the races the other horses have had.”

The field will be finalized during Wednesday night’s post-position draw.

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