“We went over a lot of situations last night, the decision was made. There were a lot of reasons to run and a lot of reasons not to run. Mr. Tafel wanted the Triple Crown like you can’t believe. It really deflated us. I told Mr. Tafel the horse is in great shape. He’s doing good. We worked him a light half, so it set him up that we could bounce either way.”
In all honesty, I am not surprised by the announcement today that Street Sense will by-pass the Belmont in favor of a fall campaign driven towards winning the Travers and Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Travers is August 25. The Breeders’ Cup is October 27. As preps, they are talking about the Jim Dandy (July 29) or Haskell (August 5). Is this really about a horse physically or mentally in sub-par condition to take on Curlin and the rest of the Belmont field, or is this about something else? Note the quote above: “I told Mr. Tafel the horse is in great shape.” Doesn’t seem to suggest that this decision is based on any health concerns. More revealing, I think, is the answer trainer Carl Nafzger gave when someone ask about a four-year-old campaign for Street Sense:
“Knowing the offers that are coming in on this horse, which I don’t know the details of, but I know it’s getting economically impossible to run.”
This decision was ultimately about money, pure and simple. The potential value of stud fees for a horse that could end up winning both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Classic, and being named Horse of the Year. I hate being a cynic; however, this is not an emotional reaction to the situation, but one that recognizes, on one level, its complete common sense and logic, while on the other, despises the prevalence in our society of greed over sport. And don’t think for a moment otherwise. There were no excuses given during the press conference concerning injury or other physical concerns other than the generic:
"When a person is growing up and maturing, they need time to let the body catch up with itself and he’s a horse that’s going to develop more and get stronger," Nafzger said. "If he doesn’t, we won’t win the Breeders’ Cup Classic."
Also, the mental concern for his alleged tendency to “idle on the lead” was addressed:
"My horse has got to mature in one aspect … he’s got to learn that when he gets the lead not to lose his intensity," Nafzger said. "He doesn’t come out of the bit, but he loses intensity. We’re hoping that in this time of 60 that we have until the next race that maybe this horse … will get over that."
Now, I ask you, prior to the Preakness, did anyone observe this phenomenon? I know if it had been written down somewhere, handicappers everywhere would be analyzing it to death. Did Nafzger or Borel address it in any way? Or did this excuse du jour become a weak attempt at justifying staying out of the Belmont? If there is no real physical or mental issue, let’s just vaguely talk about hypothetical growth spurts and previously-unrecognized race tendencies. I’m not buying it. Just call it what it is: a business decision. And move on.