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Jun 13, 2014

Up the Backstretch: How good were the 3-year-olds of 2007?

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - Listening to sports talk radio and reading everything that's available about owner Steve Coburn's comments immediately after California Chrome lost the Belmont Stakes, it struck me that his knowledge about thoroughbred history is laughable.

Coburn was complaining about horses kept out of the first two legs of the Triple Crown and allowed to run in the Belmont Stakes and win. Supposedly, running three races in five weeks is too much for some horses.

It got me thinking about the 2007 class of 3-year-olds that ran in all three races and continued to race the remainder of the year. That group of horses established themselves as the finest bunch of 3-year-olds in recent memory.

The group went at each other like the heavyweight fighters of the 1970s, each taking turns beating the heck out of each other but all gaining great respect from the racing community.

The first two races in that year's Triple Crown offered a glimpse at the quality of the division.

In the Kentucky Derby, Street Sense came from next-to-last to win the Run for the Roses as a lukewarm 9-2 favorite. He defeated a front-running Hard Spun, 10-1 on the tote board, by 2 1/4 lengths with 5-1 second pick Curlin getting third.

These three colts met again two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes with Street Sense the 13-10 favorite, Curlin at 3-1 and Hard Spun 4-1. The final result was just a reshuffling of the Kentucky Derby.

Curlin dug deep to edge past Street Sense and win the second leg of the Triple Crown by a head with Hard Spun four lengths back in third.

Three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes, Street Sense was replaced by leading filly Rags to Riches and the young lady proved every inch the tiger that her male rivals were.

Rags to Riches posted a head victory over Curlin, the 11-10 favorite. Hard Spun finished fourth behind third-place finisher Tiago.

Although many people lose interest in horse racing after the Triple Crown concludes, the best was yet to come for the 3-year-olds of 2007.

Street Sense skipped the Belmont Stakes but came back to win both the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga and eventually was made the 5-2 favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Hard Spun and Curlin both went to the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, site of the 2007 Breeders' Cup. Hard Spun got second and Curlin finished third to Any Given Saturday.

Needing a stakes win, Hard Spun went sprinting at Saratoga and won the King's Bishop in his final start versus other 3-year-olds. He then defeated older horses in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park as did Any Given Saturday in the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park.

The 3-year-olds continued beating their older rivals as Curlin won the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in his final start before the Breeders' Cup Classic.

The Breeders' Cup Classic was the cherry on the top of the sundae for 3-year- olds of 2007. Hard Spun set the pace and Curlin drove through the stretch to win by better than four lengths over his fellow 3-year-old.

Street Sense, the 5-2 favorite, finished fourth with Tiago and Any Given Saturday in the next two spots at the wire. The 2007 class of 3-year-olds had proven itself versus all comers.

Curlin was named 2007 Horse of the Year and did it again in 2008.

So, don't come crying about cowards and such. If you think you have a horse that's any good, just race him against the ones that show up.

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