10/23/2008 11:00PM

BC Journal: The day they've all been waiting for


Jay Hovdey, Oct. 24:

ARCADIA, Calif. - At about 1:45 p.m., Pacific 90-degree Daylight Time, Chris Paasch will give a leg up to Mike Smith and send Stardom Bound postward for the $1 million Juvenile Fillies. Five hours earlier, Paasch could be found escorting friends to a choice vantage point not far from the Santa Anita finish line. I accused him of plotting a quick path to the winner's circle.

"Absolutely," Paasch said, grinned, then recanted. "We've still got a race to run."

According to Paasch, favored Stardom Bound had a peaceful night and an uneventful Friday morning. For most fillies, this would be a good thing. Stardom Bound, however, seems to thrive when in the midst of some kind of tumult.

The morning before the Sept. 27 Oak Leaf Stakes, Stardom Bound was kicked by an outrider's pony. Luckily, the wound was superficial. She won by 3 1/2 lengths.

"The less said about that the better," Paasch said. "But then there was the night before the Del Mar Debutante. Some old '70s band was warming up and they had the sound too high. She freaked out and almost broke out of her stall."

She won that one by 4 1/2 lengths.

Stardom Bound shipped across town from Paasch's Hollywood Park barn on Wednesday morning. That night a fire broke out in the Jack Van Berg stable, just two barns down from Paasch's. Arson has not been ruled out.

"I think that can qualify as her emergency," Paasch said. Then he was reminded that she was sleeping soundly at Santa Anita at the time.

"They didn't know that," he replied. . . .

In this age of early retirements, any time a special racehorse comes along, fans start listening for the exit lines. Zenyatta, who is favored to be 9 for 9 after the $2 million Ladies' Classic is finished Friday at around 3:20 p.m. PDT, is a pearl of such price that it is almost unreasonable to expect her people - Ann and Jerry Moss - to race her again in 2009.

Not so, says trainer John Shirreffs.

"Retiring her has never even been discussed," Shirreffs said. "Mr. and Mrs. Moss prefer to race. The plan is to run Tiago next year, too." This qualifies as extremely good news. The 4-year-old Tiago runs on Saturday in the Classic. . . .

Steve Asmussen was asked Friday morning if he did anything differently that morning with Curlin & Co. because of the early 7:30 a.m. closing time of training hours.

"Yes," he said. "We gave Curlin's workmate the morning off."

Short training hours Saturday will not impact Curlin in the least. He does not train on the morning of his races. Asmussen has three other starters on Saturday, including Student Council in the Classic alongside Curlin, but nothing on Friday in the six events for fillies and mares.

"Believe me," Asmussen said, "it was not by design."

The trainer was asked if he'd heard Frankie Dettori's description of Curlin as looking like "a 3 1/2-mile steeplechaser with the hind end of a quarter horse." Steve had not.

"The best description of him that I've heard out here was walking to the track the other morning," said Asmussen. "I heard someone say, 'Now that's what a racehorse is supposed to look like.' " . . .

Want to see a South African break out in a rash? Ask Trevor Denman about working conditions last year at Monmouth Park when he called the inaugural Friday program of Breeders' Cup events. The date was Oct. 26, 2007.

"Categorically, and you can put this in big letters," Denman said, about an hour before the first race Friday. "N-E-V-E-R have I worked under those conditions. And I don't use that word lightly. You can ask Larry. It was like driving through a rainstorm with no wipers. My wife, Robin, thank goodness, was there. As they were loading, with about three to go, they'd push the windows open and the rain would just pour into the booth. For the first quarter-mile, you could see. After that, practically nothing."

Right on cue, Larry Colmus, Monmouth Park's regular announcer, walked into Denman's booth.

"I kept thinking, 'I really wouldn't want to be Trevor right now,' " Colmus said. "The equipment in the booth all had to be replaced."

By contrast, Denman compares calling the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita to sitting at home "watching TV in your lounge."

"For me, the worst day here is better than the best day anywhere else," he said. "How can you get bothered? You know the angles, you know the tote board. You know anyone coming into the booth."

Marcus Hersh, Oct. 24:

ARCADIA, Calif. - The sun hadn't peeked over the horizon when I got to the track at 6:30, but crossing the paddock area to leave my stuff in the auxiliary press box, the place already bustled. There were more people - Breeders' Cup people, ESPN people, Santa Anita people - milling about at dawn than one usually sees at the actual races these days.

Things were quieter today than they'd been the last several at Clockers' Corner, a hub of bedlam Wednesday and Thursday, and I sidled up to Cliff Sise, a trainer I barely know, but one who seems like a sharp guy. My question: What should Breeders' Cup players look for today and tomorrow in the Pro-Ride surface?

"The track seems to change depending on what they do to it on a particular day, and what the weather is," Sise said.

Sise and another trainer with him, Paul Assinessi, said the track maintenance crew had roto-tilled the Pro-Ride on Wednesday and Thursday morning. Wednesday, the outside paths were tilled; Thursday, the inside was done.

"The inside was really deep yesterday morning," Sise said.

That also appeared to be the case at the beginning of the racing program here Thursday, Assinessi said. "They went 22.2 for the first quarter in the first race, and the speed stopped," he said. "But then, by the middle of the card, they were running one-two around there, and nobody was making up any ground."

Indeed, race 6, a two-turn Pro-Ride starter-allowance route race for "nonwinners-of-two" former maiden-claimers, looked like a parade. A horse named Fiesty Suances set a really quick pace of 47.06 to the half-mile, but drew off and won as he pleased. The place horse chased all the way. A race later, significantly better horses went a route of ground again, and this time, though the pace was a full second slower to the half-mile, the front-runner was nailed in the stretch.

Story of the meet, according to Assinessi and Sise. You think you pick up a trend, and then that trend vanishes.

"Just stick with what works for you and hope for the best," said Assinessi.

Sadler cool and calm for the Cup

With 60 horses stabled at Santa Anita and 60 more at Hollywood Park, John Sadler is carrying a string of running horses as large as any on the circuit. Friday? In many ways a typical day for Team Sadler, which had eight horses entered in six races on the 10-race program.

Deviations from the norm could be found. First, it was barely after 8 on Friday when the morning's work was wrapping up at barn 56. Because of early post time for Breeders' Cup Ladies' Day, training was halted at 7. Normally, it takes Sadler right up till training ends at 10 to get all the horses out.

"This is a rare early day for us," Sadler said.

There was also the matter of readying fillies for three straight Breeders' Cup races in the early afternoon. Four more are entered Saturday, and only Bobby Frankel, who has a horse for eight races, has more BC horses this year. Sheer quantity could help Sadler break his Breeders' Cup maiden; as of Friday morning, Sadler-trained horses had gone 0 for 8.

But Sadler has 12 graded stakes wins this year, and a BC victory seems more when than if.

"My main focus this week has been to make sure I didn't get wound up," Sadler said. And Sadler expects that demeanor to extend through the races themselves. "No, no jitters anymore. I've outgrown that. I know that I've trained the horses well and done my job."

Best shot Friday? That would be Dearest Trickski in the F&M Sprint, Sadler believes.

"She's doing really well right now," Sadler said of the F&M Sprint's likely speed. "We have a theory - we're just going to go to the front."

If Dearest Trickski turns into the stretch with the lead, it may yield a bitter memory for one of the old racetrackers that have found employment in the Sadler barn. That would be Rudy, who spent 26 years rubbing horses for Charlie Whittingham after leaving Cassius Clay's neighborhood in Louisiville for mild SoCal. A fount of information is Rudy, who has 11 years and a special niche in the Sadler shed row. Among his Whittingham charges was Jeanne Jones, who turned into the Hollywood Park stretch of the 1987 Juvenile Fillies with a big lead.

"A camera flash went off and spooked her, and Pat Day came and caught her [with Epitome]," recalled Rudy. "I still got $2,500, but that cost me another $2,500."

Sadler was out of hearing range as Rudy recounted, which was not a bad thing - tales like that could give a trainer the jitters.