Making the Grade, which will run through the 2020 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact on the Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey), and pedigree.
After competing exclusively in sprint races for his first five starts, Gold Street stretched out to one mile for the first time in the Smarty Jones Stakes and led from start to finish in a 2 ¾-length victory. Let’s take a closer look at his chances to develop into a serious 2020 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve prospect.
Ability: Gold Street was unplaced in his career debut in August at Ellis Park, but followed with back-to-back runner-up finishes at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, respectively, at three-quarters of a mile.
The bay colt by Street Boss earned his first career victory in his fourth start Nov. 23 at Churchill Downs, pressing the pace in another six-furlong race and pulling away to a seven-length romp on a sloppy track. The victory as the 7-10 favorite earned a new 10-point career-top Equibase Speed Figure of 101.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen next tested Gold Street against stakes competition at the same three-quarter-mile distance in the $75,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds. Racing on a sloppy track for the second straight race, Gold Street employed similar pressing tactics and again won easily, pulling clear to a 3 ½-length victory as the even-money favorite. He earned a 95 Equibase Speed Figure for the Sugar Bowl win.
Asmussen tasked Gold Street with a new challenge in his 3-year-old bow, stretching him out an extra quarter-mile for the one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 24 at Oaklawn. For the third straight race, Gold Street raced on an off (wet) track that this time was labeled muddy. He went right to the front and set an easy pace through a half-mile in :48.96 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.72 leading by 1 ½ lengths at that point in the race.
Gold Street had plenty left under Martin Garcia and increased his lead by a length in early stretch on his way to a 2 ¾-length win at 10.40-1 odds that look like a gift in hindsight. He was part of a four-horse contingent from the Asmussen barn, each of whom was a stakes winner, and that probably helped inflate Gold Street’s odds, but he did look like the class of the group who would be vying for the lead and he had proven form on off tracks.
The 98 Equibase Speed Figure Gold Street earned for the Smarty Jones was solid for his first try stretching out in distance and his 95 Beyer Speed Figure was the fastest for a winner on the Road to the 2020 Kentucky Derby from the qualifying races to date. Likewise, the 99 BrisNet speed rating paints an optimistic picture for Gold Street.
The obvious concern when evaluating Gold Street is that each of his three wins (also his three fastest races) came on wet tracks. He did run well when second on fast main tracks in both his second and third races, but I think it’s fair to assume he takes a nice step forward with some moisture in the ground.
“We felt very fortunate to have four stakes winners coming into this race, obviously, we have very high hopes for them in the future. Gold Street is 3-for-3 on an off track, so I was surprised they let him get such an easy lead,” Asmussen said. “We’ll see how he comes out of this and make our plans from there.”
Distance also is a legitimate concern for a colt (by Grade 1-winning sprinter Street Boss) who made his first five starts in sprints and has not competed in a race longer than a mile. Gold Street finished his final eighth of a mile in an uninspiring 13 seconds after setting an easy pace, but Garcia was nonetheless encouraged about his chances to excel as the distances get longer.
“That's the first time going two turns, and he did it so easy, so I don't see why he wouldn't go,” Garcia said.
Running style: Gold Street is one of many so far on the 2020 Triple Crown trail with tactical speed. He was permitted to set an uncontested pace in the Smarty Jones, but also has shown the ability to settle, especially in his first win at Churchill Downs, just behind the early speed. He has sprinter speed, so I’d expect Gold Street to be prominent early in two-turn races and probably more often than not he’ll set the pace in two-turn races.
Connections: Mike McCarty purchased Gold Street for $150,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale. McCarty’s top runners over the years have been multiple Grade 2 winner Private Vow, multiple graded stakes winner Unbridled’s Note, and Grade 3 winner Lemon Drop Dream. He also raced in partnership graded stakes winner Expansion.
Steve Asmussen was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2016 after winning Eclipse Awards as outstanding trainer in 2008 and 2009. Asmussen ranks second all time among North American trainers with 8,735 victories through Jan. 27.
Asmussen won the Preakness Stakes in 2007 with Curlin and 2009 with Rachel Alexandra. In 2016, he won the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets with Creator. Other standouts trained by Asmussen include 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner and, more recently, 2019 champion sprinter Mitole and 2019 champion older dirt female Midnight Bisou.
Martin Garcia rode Gold Street for the first time in the Smarty Jones. Ricardo Santana Jr. had been aboard for his previous four starts. Garcia won the Preakness in 2010 on Lookin At Lucky. His best finish in the Kentucky Derby was a third in 2015 on Dortmund.
Pedigree: Gold Street is from the ninth crop of Street Boss, by Street Cry. Street Boss won seven of 13 starts at distances ranging from 5 ½ furlongs to seven furlongs and was a multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter. He ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in 2008.
Street Boss is the sire of 2017 Hong Kong Horse of the Year Street Rapper, 2016 Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, 2014 Arkansas Derby winner and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Danza, and 2017 Sunland Derby winner Hence among 14 career group/graded stakes winners. He’s also sired several elite sprinters, but it is worth noting that many of his top runners have proved capable navigating a route of ground.
Gold Street is out of the stakes-placed sprinter Morakami, by Fusaichi Pegasus. Morakami also produced stakes-winning sprinter Oh Marvelous Me, by Bluegrass Cat. Oh Marvelous Me ran third in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile in 2018.
Gold Street’s grandam (maternal grandmother), Astrid, by Concern, was a stakes winner at one mile and 70 yards, but seven of her eight wins came at three-quarters of a mile or less.
There is not much in the way of truly elite talent in the first four generations of this pedigree and it definitely slants more toward speed than stamina, so I’m concerned about Gold Street’s chances to continue to thrive as the races get longer on the Kentucky Derby trail.
There are some promising signs when it comes to speed figures from the Smarty Jones, but I need to see him win on a dry track around two turns before I take him seriously as a Derby threat. I’m not dismissing Gold Street’s chances, but rather taking a skeptical wait-and-see approach.