10/21/2003 11:00PM

Asmussen has confidence in Cuvee, Bailey


ARCADIA, Calif. - About 15 minutes after favored Halfbridled was assigned the outside post for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, the same fate befell Cuvee, the favorite for the $1.5 million Juvenile.

Cuvee will break from post 12 in the Juvenile, a race in which there is less than three sixteenths to the first turn at Santa Anita's one-mile oval.

"I was hoping for a better post,'' said Steve Asmussen, Cuvee's trainer. "But I'm not going in looking for any excuses."

Cuvee was made the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the Juvenile by Oak Tree linemaker Jeff Tufts. Many handicappers were looking to play against Cuvee because he has never run around two turns and his breeding - he's a son of Carson City - does not suggest the 1 1/16 miles will be his optimal distance. Cuvee is 4 for 5 lifetime, with dominant victories in one-turn stakes such as the Saratoga Special and Belmont Futurity.

The good news for Cuvee supporters is that Jerry Bailey will be in the irons. In addition to being the best position rider in the game, Bailey, who has ridden Cuvee twice, has won three of the last seven runnings of the Juvenile. In his last nine Juvenile rides, Bailey is 3-2-3. He finished fourth aboard Bull Market last year.

"We have a lot of faith in our horse, we have a lot of faith in Jerry," Asmussen said. "He knows the horse; he's got a great amount of respect for his ability."

Cuvee has speed to get good position, and has been kind enough to be taken just off the pace.

"The only time we ever sent him was at Saratoga," said Asmussen, referring to the Saratoga Special in which the main track was sloppy and speed-favoring.

Cuvee arrived from Churchill Downs on Tuesday afternoon, but did not go to the track Wednesday morning. Asmussen said he wanted all three of his Breeders' Cup horses - he will also run Lady Tak in the Distaff and Posse in the Sprint - to have an easy day. All three schooled in the paddock and will return to the track on Thursday.

Chapel Royal, another speed horse in the race, drew post 10. Trainer Todd Pletcher had suggested that he wants to put Chapel Royal in the race, and by drawing post 10, Chapel Royal figures to be a pace factor.

Trainer Richard Mandella was upset when Halfbridled drew post 14 in the Juvenile Fillies, but was happy with the posts of his trio of Juvenile starters. Action This Day, a closer Mandella has been touting all week, drew post 2. Minister Eric, who finished second to stablemate Siphonizer in the Del Mar Futurity, drew post 7. Siphonizer drew post 8.

On Wednesday, Minister Eric blew out three furlongs in 36.80 seconds over the main track, though Mandella caught him in 35.40 seconds under jockey Alex Solis. Given a choice of mounts, Solis chose the more experienced Minister Eric over the maiden winner Action This Day.

"Minister Eric is more seasoned and he'll be ready for it," Solis said.