He was in a mood.
I was talking to him, I mentioned the Ducks, a team he was unaware existed, and it kind of set him off.
"The Ducks?" That's a hockey team now?
My Dad grew up in Massachusetts and was a Bruins fan through the Ferny Flaman years, the Bobby Orr years, the Don Cherry years, and the Ray Bourque years. He is also one of those hockey fans who has kind of slipped away from the game, a combination of the Bruins management being awful, the team sucking for over a decade, the NHL being marketed about as well as a child's lemonade stand, and the Red Sox and Patriots winning a lot. Still, it makes you wonder, how could the NHL lose a guy like my dad? He was in full on rant, as I pondered the question.
"I mean, what kind of world are we living in that the goddamn DUCKS are a better hockey team than the Boston Brui-
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Preakness Winner Curlin Heads Home A Classic Winner; Street Sense, Hard Spun Emerge From Race In Fine Order
CURLIN – Just under 12 hours after winning
the Preakness, the Smart Strike colt – healthy, but showing signs of being a bit weary - was on his way early Sunday morning to trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.
Asmussen watched as Curlin left the Preakness Stakes barn at 6 a.m. and was walked onto a van to be taken to Baltimore-Washington International Airport for the flight to Kentucky.
“He looked good as he was loaded on the trailer, but he definitely knows he ran (Saturday),” Asmussen said.
Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense ran past Curlin at the top of the stretch of the Preakness and appeared to be on his way to victory when Curlin rallied again under jockey Robby Albarado. Curlin surged in the final few yards and beat Street Sense by a head while matching the stakes record of 1:53.46 for the 1-3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Curlin picked up his fourth victory in five lifetime starts with a performance that Asmussen said was the most stressful of the colt’s short career.
“I think that was obvious from the race,” Asmussen said. “He had to dig down deep and find more.”
While Asmussen did not commit to going on to the Belmont Stakes or the Travers at Saratoga, he said Curlin is headed to racing’s marquee events.
“This is the stage this horse deserves and those are the caliber of races he is intended for,” Asmussen said. “It will all be up to him physically, but that is the stage that he deserves to be on. Our job is to make sure he is prepared for it.”
Curlin had a troubled trip in the Derby, but showed interest in the later stages of the race and was able to finish third. Asmussen and his staff quickly realized that Curlin was fresh and could handle the quick turnaround from the Derby to the Preakness.
“He came out of the race unlike any of my other previous Derby starters,” Asmussen said. “With the possibility of running him back in two weeks, if you’re going to run one, he was the one you wanted to run.”
By Sunday morning, Asmussen, who scrapped a plan to return home Saturday night, had seen video of Curlin’s run in the Preakness.
“He wasn’t away as clean as we were hoping for,” Asmussen said. “He was off the bridle early. Personally, I was worried about a replay of the Derby. Robby got him in position. Street Sense, and he’s an excellent horse, kind of got the jump on him. He dug down deep and found more and is a deserving winner of a classic.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of the horse or for the horse. It’s just a grand stage for everybody to see what everybody involved with the horse believed all along.”
From his vantage point, Asmussen couldn’t be sure whether Curlin would be able to catch Street Sense.
“I watched the race from well up the racetrack, pretty close to the starting gate,” Asmussen said. “As they came around the turn Robby was having to navigate him. The horse drifts out a bit and he was having to guide him quite a bit. So you knew that wherever he was in the stretch and was able to go back to his right lead that he’d be able to find more. How much more, obviously, was in question. I didn’t feel that he was done, but whether it would be enough or not was the question to be asked at that point.”
As a record crowd of 121,263 people at Pimlico roared, Curlin and Street Sense turned in a classic battle to the wire.
“The last three-sixteenths goes in 18 (seconds) and change,” Asmussen said. “Covering that much ground, they both came home extremely well.”
The Preakness was Asmussen’s first victory in an American classic race and turned out to be a well-timed personal milestone.
“I’m extremely proud that my family was able to enjoy it with me,” he said. “It’s a very special feeling, having my parents being able to be here. My father’s mother passed away this week. It prioritizes what family means to you, for them to be a part of a very special moment for me.
STREET SENSE – The Preakness runner-up flew back to Churchill Downs early Sunday morning before trainer Carl Nafzger and wife Wanda began their long car ride back to Kentucky.
“He’s good; he’s already home,” Nafzger said by phone shortly after 11 a.m. “There won’t be a decision on the Belmont until Mr. Tafel and I have a meeting. That will probably take place two or three days or maybe a week. Right now, I don’t think we probably will. There’s not really any reason to go there right now. These three horses ran their guts out the last two races. I don’t know what Curlin’s gonna do and I don’t know what Hard Spun’s gonna do.”
Street Sense appeared destined to be on his way to the Belmont with a chance to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion and first since Affirmed in 1978, but Curlin nailed him in the final stride to win by a head and end the dream of the Kentucky Derby winner’s camp.
“This was one of the Preaknesses to remember,” said Nafzger, who also finished second with Derby winner Unbridled in the 1990 Preakness. “It was a spectacular race. Winning isn’t everything in this game. That was a field of very nice horses. You don’t want anybody to get beat, but there’s got to be a winner. I thought Curlin ran an unbelievable race, but you’ve got to remember Asmussen ain’t never won the Derby. I have twice. He got a Preakness.”
HARD SPUN – Trainer Larry Jones reported that his third-place finisher in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes emerged from the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown in good order.
“Everything looks good. He ate well, his legs are cold. He’s seems like he’s OK. He’s tired, but he came out of the race OK,” said Jones, Sunday morning before putting his colt on a van bound for Delaware Park.
Hard Spun took over the lead leaving the backstretch and showed the nine-horse field into the stretch before being passed by eventual winner Curlin and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.
“We got beat by two really good horses who tied the stakes record (1:53.46) in order to do it. We’re disappointed because we wanted to win, but I’m disappointed that I had two thirds at Delaware (Saturday). I wanted those horses to win, too,” Jones said.
“But we sure don’t have anything to be ashamed of. When you run third in one of the classics, you’ve got to be happy. It wasn’t our day, but we don’t know if we’ll get a day. But Carl and Steve are both very nice guys, and I’m sure if all three go to Belmont, they’re going to feel sorry for him and let me have one.”
Jones said the Belmont is a distinct possibility for his colt’s future, depending on how he bounces back from his Preakness effort in the next week.
“When we saw (1:09 4/5) for three quarters, it started to look like we were in a dangerous situation,” said Jones of Saturday’s fast fraction Hard Spun had put on the board while wresting a two-length lead from early pace-duelers Xchanger and Flying First Class.
Jones said the way the race set up put Hard Spun and jockey Mario Pino in a tough spot, with C P West and jockey Edgar Prado making their presence felt along the backstretch.
“We had schooled the horse eating dirt, and as soon as we’d tip him out from behind the horses and show him racetrack, we’d sort of gun him to go. So, I think it probably was what the horse may have been thinking with Mario (Saturday). He said he knew those horses were going to stop. He could tell they were starting to slow down, and he didn’t want to take a chance of Edgar race-riding him up to a blocked spot,” he said.
“As soon as he tipped him out to make sure that he had a place to go when Edgar comes, I think the horse just took off on him, the way he talked. He said he took all the hold on him that he could without starting to fight with him.”
Hard Spun, who finished a solid second behind Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby, is the first Triple Crown campaigner of Jones’ career, which took a decided upturn when Fox Hill Farm’s Richard Porter transferred Hard Spun to his stable shortly after the Western Kentucky native ventured to Delaware Park for the first time last year.
“The chances of getting the second one are far greater than getting the first one. It’s like making a million dollars. It’s making the first million is the hardest; the other million comes around a lot easier,” Jones said. “That’s kind of the way it is with these classic horses. You’ve got to get there with the first, before anyone’s going to give you a shot.”
C P WEST – Trainer Nick Zito was packing up for the trip back to New York shortly after 8 a.m. on Sunday, still more than pleased with his colt’s fourth-place finish and ready to reward him with a rest. Zito said the son of Came Home will bypass the Belmont Stakes.
“He came out of it very good,” said the Hall of Fame conditioner. “He’s a different type of horse. He shouldn’t be a Belmont Stakes horse right now. We took a giant step with a horse that just ran two races (this year), one a mile race. He didn’t even have a two-turn race before a classic race like the Preakness.”
Zito said the next target in terms of major stakes for C P West would be the Travers at Saratoga on Aug.. 25.
“Everything we hoped would happen happened,” Zito said. “Street Sense beat us bad in the Juvenile, but he beat everybody bad in the Juvenile. I wanted to see how much he improved and if he could stay with these horses, and he did. Now we should handle him correctly. Running him a mile and a half wouldn’t be correctly.”
CIRCULAR QUAY, KING OF THE ROXY – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s two Preakness runners arrived “no worse for the wear” back at his Belmont Park barn shortly after 9:30 a.m., according to assistant trainer Tristan Barry.
Both horses finished off the board, leaving the three-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer with a lifetime 0-for-28 record in Triple Crown events.
Barry said Pletcher gave no indication about his future plans with Circular Quay, who was fifth in the Preakness and sixth in the Kentucky Derby or sixth-place Preakness finisher King of the Roxy. He indicated on Saturday that both would likely get some rest before their next starts.
Pletcher had much more success with his two 3-year-old fillies during the first two legs of the Triple Crown, winning both the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks with Rags to Riches and the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan with Panty Raid. Pletcher has not ruled out the possibility of Rags to Riches against males, possibly in the Belmont Stakes.
Another Pletcher 3-year-old, Soaring By, was one of the favorites in Sunday’s Peter Pan at Belmont Park, considered a significant prep for the Belmont Stakes.
MINT SLEWLEP – Trainer Robbie Bailes said Sunday morning he was happy with the manner in which Mint Slewlep came out of his seventh-place finish in the Preakness Stakes.
“He’s doing well,” said Bailes, who vanned Marshall Dowell’s Mint Slewlep back to his Bowie Training Center headquarters Saturday night.
Bailes has no immediate plans for the son of Slew City Slew, who was bumped off stride shortly after the start of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“We’ll sit back for seven or eight days and talk it over with Mr. Dowell to see what’s the best way to get him back (on track),” Bailes said.
XCHANGER – Trainer Mark Shuman knew Xchanger was in trouble when he saw the early fractions his eighth-place finisher had set while being pressed by Flying First Class during the early going of the Preakness Stakes.
“Nobody goes 1:09 and change and has a shot of finishing up,” said Shuman, who vanned his Preakness starter back to his Fair Hill Training Center barn Saturday night. “We didn’t give a fair shot by going that fast early.”
Shuman, who reported that his colt came out of his effort in good order, said it would be 30 days before he would decide where Xchanger will race next.
“There are so many races for 3-year-olds, we’ll have a lot of options,” he said.
FLYING FIRST CLASS – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his colt were back in Kentucky before noon on Sunday. Lukas said the colt came out of the race fine.
After Flying First Class dominated the field in the Derby Trial on April 28, Lukas decided to try the Preakness and see if the colt could carry his speed around two turns. That plan did not work out, though, when Flying First Class and Xchanger dueled through fast early fractions before Flying First Class tired and finished last in the nine-horse Preakness field.
“We’ll just stay under a mile now for the rest of his career. That little experiment is over,” Lukas said by telephone. “We’ll just point for the better sprint races and see if we can’t get him to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Along the way, Lukas said the colt might run in races like the King’s Bishop at Saratoga.
During the week leading up to the Preakness, Lukas touted Curlin and Street Sense, who finished a head apart at the finish of the race.
“That they’re the two best horses is pretty obvious,” Lukas said.