By Ellis Starr

 

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Street Sense—————— Great Hunter

 

With a record of one win each in two meetings, Street Sense and Great Hunter promise to make the 83rd running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes a memorable one. Great Hunter won the Grade 1 Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity last fall on the all weather track at Keeneland, with Street Sense checking in third after leading in the stretch, then four weeks later Street Sense turned the tables on his rival with a smashing 10-length win in the Grade 1 Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. With both classy colts having returned from four months on the bench to win graded stakes last month and with both likely to run even better in their second starts of 2007, we can not ask for a better race to watch and wager on. Adding excitement to the mix is Dominican, who won the Rushaway Stakes three weeks ago on the all weather track at Turfway Park, running faster than Hard Spun did one race later when victorious in the Grade 2 Lane’s End Stakes. Starbase, Teuflesberg and Zanjero round out the compact yet extremely talented field.

Dominican dominated a 10-horse field in the Rushaway Stakes, winning by five lengths and earning a career best 109 Equibase Speed Figure. To put that effort into perspective, one race later Hard Spun won the Grade 2 Lane’s End Stakes and earned a 101. Since Dominican had been away from the races for four months before the Rushaway it is reasonable to assume he should run even better in the Blue Grass, and his recent workout at Keeneland on April 8 may be a further indicator that he is in better physical shape than before the Rushaway. Having won over the all weather track at Keeneland last October in a two-turn race is another positive factor. Dominican is the only one of the three recent stakes winners who needs to run first or second in the Blue Grass to attain enough graded stakes earnings to run in the Kentucky Derby, as only the 20 horses with the most earnings in graded stakes can enter the starting gate at Churchill Downs three weeks for now. This factor adds incentive for Dominican’s jockey and trainer to get him home on top in the Blue Grass.

Street Sense, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old male for 2006, came back to the races in March and after four months off like he had never left, winning the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby by a nose over Any Given Saturday and earning a 114 , only one point shy of the 115 he earned when in peak condition winning the Juvenile. With many horses, a big effort following a layoff might result in a regression, but Street Sense was relaxed for most of the Tampa Bay Derby, finding a spot on the rail for the stretch run and really only having to run hard for the last five-sixteenths of the race. Street Sense also has a positive experience over the all weather track at Keeneland with his third-place finish behind Great Hunter in the Breeders’ Futurity last fall. As such, I am expecting another top effort in the Blue Grass to put Street Sense in position to peak on Kentucky Derby Day.

Great Hunter, like Street Sense and Dominican, returned to the races after four months off in March and more than picked up where he left off, winning the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes with a powerful turn of foot on the turn to go from sixth to first by a length and one-half in three-sixteenths of a mile, then maintaining his margin to the wire. Great Hunter earned a career best 112 Figure for that effort, and as he won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall over this all weather track and as he should improve in his second start off a layoff, Great Hunter has every right to run well enough to win his second graded stakes at Keeneland.

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