The Triple Crown is usually a time when we see the wheat and chaff separated and to some degree we saw that this year as well. Clearly there is an upper echelon of 3yo's but who is the top 3yo in the nation right now? Who is the most accomplished? Who is the most talented? Who can we expect to fare the best over the rest of the season?
If you asked three different people those questions you'd likely get three different answers. You may even get told a different horse for each question by the same person.
Needless to say the Triple Crown did not really establish a clear hierarchy. Part of that has to do with the fact that no horse won two legs of the Triple Crown. But in 2000 we saw Fusaichi Pegasus, Red Bullet and Commendable win Triple Crown races and there was little doubt that the Classic winners got worse as they went along. So who is the finest 3yo in the land, Street Sense, Curlin or Rags To Riches?
I don't think there is clear answer to that question and any answer given is obviously pure conjecture. But here are some questions to consider as you evaluate the trio yourself and of course my opinion on those questions is included as always.
Who is the most accomplished? Rags To Riches
At this point Rags is the top ranked horse in the TCR. You can see the complete standings on the sidebar. Her lead over the other two is about the equivalent of a G-1 win. Can the others be more accomplished by years end? No question, they definitely can, but at this point Rags is undefeated in 5 starts with 3 G-1 wins. One of them being a classic. That is more than the others two have done to this point in 2007.
Who is capable of the biggest single race performance? Street Sense
You can't deny it, this is a big horse for big days and there is always the feeling that Street Sense is capable of blowing out a good field when it counts. It does not matter if he loses every race from now until the Breeders Cup, he will be live if only because of his ability to step up and run a huge race. Now both of his big races have come at Churchill but remember many horses who like Churchill also like Saratoga and Street Sense appears as if he'll next race in the Jim Dandy and Travers, both at the Spa.
Who has the most raw talent? Curlin
In my opinion Curlin is still a bit underdeveloped. Of the three horses I do think that his physical ability will prove to be superior in the end. He might not be at his best going 12f but he really looks like a horse who has not been fully exposed yet. I suspect that we may not have seen Curlin at his best yet, that prospect alone makes me excited to see where he will turn up next.
Who has the brightest future? Rags To Riches
Although I think Curlin will prove to be the most talented of the trio there is no denying that the prospect of seeing Rags to Riches race in 2008 is an intriguing one. Hard Spun and Street Sense are already unofficially retired and despite the fact that Curlin has not had any stud deals announced I think I would sound naive if I did not acknowledge the probability that he retire at year's end. If Curlin stays around he would get my vote but I think Rags to Riches has a brighter future based on the fact that she has a possible one and half years left in her career while the others likely just have a few months.
Who is the most likely to be undefeated for the rest of the year? Rags To Riches
This is due to the fact that she is likely not going to be facing very tough competition. She may go in the Travers but then again she may not. I think Curlin and Street Sense will also have a tougher time against older males than she will against older females.
Who is the most likely to win a Breeders Cup race? Rags To Riches
Similar to the last question Rags wins this on a technicality. She will likely be in the Distaff, so naturally she has a better chance of beating Ermine and Sugar Shake than Curlin and Street Sense have of beating Invasor. However Street Sense has to be considered an unlucky loser here. The one thing he has going for him is the very real prospect of being a fresh horse at the Breeders Cup and a trainer who knows how to point for a specific race. Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen excel at campaigning their horses and picking good spots for them along the way. Carl Nafzger on the other hand is get at getting a specific horse ready for a specific race. That comes in handy at the Breeders Cup.
Who would likely win a 10f match race between the three of them? Curlin
First off I think Curlin will ultimately prove to be the best of the trio but also he has better tactical speed than the other two. That will help him to be more consistent and in a match race scenario it would give him the all important advantage of controlling the pace.