08/05/2008 11:00PM

Asmussen maps out plan for Curlin


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Not only does trainer Steve Asmussen now know exactly where he's going next with reigning Horse of the Year Curlin, he has a definite plan to get him there.

Less than 24 hours after owner Jess Jackson's announcement Tuesday that Curlin would make his next start in the Grade 1 Woodward at Saratoga on Aug. 30, Asmussen detailed an itinerary that would call for three more works, beginning with a six-furlong drill in company with stablemate Hawaii Calls over the Oklahoma training track here Monday. Hawaii Calls is an older allowance winner who has been campaigning for Asmussen in the Midwest.

"I'm excited to have a goal with him," Asmussen said shortly after parading Curlin for a private viewing by representatives from WinStar Farm during training hours Wednesday. "And the interest level in him here has been as high as anywhere we've gone. Obviously, it makes it easier for him since it's here and there are less variables involved. There's no shipping, and if we'd gone in another direction it would have meant he'd be racing over a different type of surface, either turf or Polytrack."

Asmussen said he'd follow Monday's work with an even more strenuous five-furlong drill the following week.

"His second work will be the hardest," Asmussen said. "I chose Hawaii Calls for his workmate because he's also owned by Stonestreet and it seemed like the only fair thing to do would be to work him against another horse they already owned. Zanjero was his workmate last year, and it proved beneficial to both horses, but I couldn't find anyone in the stable, at the moment, that needed the same things he does right now."

Asmussen said he was excited that Jackson left open the possibility, even if it's a remote one, that Curlin could race again next year.

"I did catch on to that a little bit while listening to the conference call yesterday," Asmussen admitted. "I'm blessed to have a horse like this. I didn't know one like him existed prior to this experience. People always ask if I feel any pressure training a horse like Curlin. With no disrespect to anyone else, I think the real pressure is running against him, not training him."

Woodward field likely to be small

Tuesday's announcement by Jackson, while not totally unexpected, will keep the field for the Woodward very small. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed that Metropolitan Handicap winner Divine Park remains a definite for the Woodward, while Nick Zito said he's strongly considering Wanderin Boy for the race. Todd Pletcher indicated A.P. Arrow remained a good possibility to run.

"It was going to come up light to begin with, and trying to fill up the field now will be even tougher with Curlin in the mix," stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes said Wednesday. "It's a good and bad situation for the track. Obviously, he's a big draw and the fans will come out to see him, which is good, but it's not likely to be much of a betting race."

McLaughlin is eager to take on the champ with Divine Park who has not started since winning the Metropolitan Handicap on May 26. Divine Park worked a half-mile in 47.40 seconds here Tuesday.

"He worked great," McLaughlin said. "It really makes no difference to us that Curlin is now pointing for the Woodward. His running here is good for the game. In fact, I'm looking forward to the opportunity to meet the champ. It would be great for Divine Park if he happens to beat him, and if we finish second or third it's still a positive."

Zito is never one to run from an odds-on favorite in a major race. He's already pulled off the year's biggest upset when Da' Tara defeated Big Brown in the Belmont, and he nearly did it again last Sunday with Coal Play in the Haskell.

"We always try to beat every big horse we can," Zito said. "So there's a very good possibility Wanderin Boy will run in the Woodward. He's coming off a wonderful prep, he finished second over this course last year in the Whitney."

The 7-year-old Wanderin Boy has already put together quite a resume of near misses in big races, having finished second to Bernardini, Lawyer Ron, and Invasor in Grade 1 events.

"If he were to finish second to Curlin in the Woodward, it would only add to his legacy," Zito said.

Zito also said he was surprised to read some of the comments made by trainer Rick Dutrow regarding Curlin following Big Brown's hard-fought victory over Coal Play in the Haskell.

"Curlin is the Horse of the Year, so when Rick makes those statements, I'm thinking maybe he should get the phone number of Tony Soprano's psychologist," Zito said with a smile. "Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Big Brown. But Rick still needs to get that phone number."

Doc N Roll wins Cab Calloway

Doc N Roll benefited from an aggressive early move by jockey Eibar Coa to capture Wednesday's $150,000 Cab Calloway Stakes for New York-breds on the turf.

Doc N Roll, a 3-year-old son of Wheelaway, moved quickly from between horses to challenge pacesetter Key Victory midway down the backstretch. Doc N Roll surged clear in early stretch and then held safe a belated rally from Gold Vendetta.

Cannonball, the 3-4 favorite in a scratch-reduced field of seven 3-year-olds, rated close up from the outset while kept three wide but failed to muster a late response when roused.

Doc N Roll, who is trained by Barclay Tagg for Sackatoga Stable, paid $7.30.

Tagg and Coa also teamed up to win the previous race with Nehantic Kat.

Danak appears fine after Fourstardave

McLaughlin reported that Danak appears to have come out of Sunday's Fourstardave in good order. Danak was eased to the wire by jockey Rajiv Maragh as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 2 turf event.

"He lost his left shoe during the race and was a little cut up in behind," McLaughlin said. "He took a few funny steps and bobbled a couple of times. He seemed to be fighting with himself as well as the track, which was a little wet, so Rajiv just pulled him up for precautionary reasons. He seems fine, but we've still got to see if anything shows up when he gets back to the track."

Sword Dancer draws 14 nominees

Curlin was among the 14 horses nominated for the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Handicap, a Win and You're In Breeders' Cup race, to be decided here on Aug. 16. Among those expected to start are Better Talk Now, Champs Elysees, Dancing Forever, Equitable, Grand Couturier, Presious Passion, and Red Rocks. Hostess, Embossed, and Telling remain probable, according to Byrnes.

Ravel returns in optional claimer

Ravel, who nearly lost an eye when struck by a clod of synthetic surface during his fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 12, will return to action under optional-claiming and allowance conditions in Friday's third race. Ravel won his only previous start on dirt, the Grade 3 Sham, in February 2007.

Ravel is one of two horses trainer Todd Pletcher entered in the race, along with his Grade 1-placed Sam P. The field also includes the Grade 2-placed Fearless Vision, who returned from a one-month layoff to dominate softer optional-claiming opposition at Belmont on July 12.