Judging by their duel at the Kentucky Derby and the odds on Saturday's Preakness, the budding rivalry between Street Sense and Hard Spun has the potential to become a classic.
Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli on Wednesday made Derby winner Street Sense the 7-5 favorite in the Preakness, followed by Hard Spun at 5-2. The horses finished 1-2 at the Derby, and now they're poised for an exciting rematch.
"Hopefully it's not going to be an Affirmed-Alydar relationship," Hard Spun trainer Larry Jones said.
Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978. Alydar finished second in all three races &
a fate Hard Spun jockey Mario Pino hopes to avoid this year.
"I don't want to be the Alydar in this," he said.
Pino and Jones were proud of taking second at the Derby, but being a runner-up three times in a row just won't do.
"Maybe it will be more like Sunday Silence-Easy Goer, where we get one of them," said Jones, referring the 1989 Triple Crown showdown. Sunday Silence won the Derby, then edged Easy Goer in the Preakness before Easy Goer topped his rival by eight lengths in the Belmont.
Ideally, Jones would like to see the 2007 Triple Crown series emulate the 1974 version.
"Maybe Hard Spun will be like his uncle, Little Current, who messed up in the Derby and got the Preakness and the Belmont," Jones said. "Maybe 25 years from now I can tell people, 'I should have had the Triple Crown.'"
Street Sense will break from the No. 8 hole Saturday and Hard Spun will emerge from gate 7. In the Derby, their posts were reversed.
"I've always liked the eight post," Street Sense trainer Carl Nafzger said. "It's outside. You get a good look at the field and you've got a straight run into the first turn."
In the Derby, Hard Spun broke in front and held the lead for much of the race until Street Sense roared from behind to win. Now, even though Street Sense is in position to become the first horse since Affirmed to win the Triple Crown, Nafzger's eyes sparkled when someone asked him if he saw a budding rivalry developing between his horse and Hard Spun.
"I hope so," Nafzger said. "Larry and I have been friends for a long time. We want to win, but if Larry wins it, I'll be the first one to congratulate him."
Curlin, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, was given the fourth post and odds of 7-2. Other horses in the field are: Circular Quay (No. — post, 8-1 odds); King of the Roxy (No. 5, 12-1); Xchanger (No. 2, 15-1); C P West (No. 9, 20-1); Flying First Class (No. 1, 20-1); and Mint Slewlep (No. 6, 30-1).
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who will enter both Circular Quay and King of the Roxy, called Street Sense "the horse to beat. I think what we all have to hope for, those of us who are running against him, is that he's not as good away from Churchill as he is at Churchill Downs."
Churchill Downs fixture Calvin Borel rode Street Sense to victory in Kentucky, but no jockey has won more races in Maryland than Pino, who hopes home-track advantage will enable him to earn his first Triple Crown win.
There are more speed horses in the Preakness than in the Derby, giving Jones reason to wonder if Hard Spun will be able to beat the field to the first turn.
"If they want to give me the lead, I'll take it. But I don't see that happening," Jones said. "If they want to get in front of us, go for it. If they want to be behind us, catch us if you can."
Street Sense, Hard Spun ready for Round 2