10/31/2006 1:00AM

Bernardini's final workout flawless


Belmont Park

Cloudy, 50 degrees, track fast

Had he already arrived at Churchill Downs, all eyes certainly would have been on Bernardini when he turned in his final workout for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Tuesday morning. Instead, training in relative anonymity at Belmont Park, only a handful of media types and a few curious horsemen were on hand when the marquee name for this year's World Thoroughbred Championships completed preparations for the main event over a fast track shortly after the renovation break.


Bernardini (five furlongs in 1:03.32): Bernardini was given ample time to stretch his legs by exercise rider Simon Harris once he entered the racetrack immediately after the break and was obviously aggressive and ready to roll as he made his way down the backstretch to the five- furlong pole. Harris had his feet in the dashboard to keep the razor-sharp Bernardini from getting away too quickly and allowed him to settle into a nice early rhythm with an opening eighth and quarter splits in 13.75 and 26.52 seconds.

Bernardini was still well within himself when he hit the top of the stretch, fanned slightly wide off the turn, then switched leads right on cue and picked up the pace without urging to complete his final quarter-mile in 24.60. He appeared to get stronger the farther he went, galloping out another eighth-mile past the wire in 12.70 before getting a double gallop out time of 1:29.25 for seven furlongs.

Nothing flashy, as expected, and more or less a mirror image of what he has done prior to each of his last several powerful performances. Anybody looking for a chink in the favorite's mighty armor coming into the Classic won't find one from this work.


Balletto (five furlongs in 1:02.24): Followed up Bernardini's move with a similar albeit slightly faster five-furlong drill with Harris aboard. She was not restrained quite as much away from the pole, going a bit quicker early than her mate with opening splits of 13.10 and 25.90. She also came several paths off the rail entering the stretch, switched leads perfectly, then angled back near the inside while getting her final quarter in a somewhat surprising 24.25, since it did not appear from the naked eye she was moving quite that fast.

She also excelled during her gallop out, going another strong eighth in 12.57 before finally easing up seven-eighths in 1:28.54. She is another who looks to be coming into her race on top of her game.


War Front (four furlongs in 45.02): In sharp contrast to Bernardini's and Balletto's works was War Front's final prep for the Sprint. There was little doubt this was going to be a fast one before exercise rider Winston Ellis even got him to the half-mile pole as it was obvious War Front was full of run and the intent was to let him roll right from the start. And that's exactly what he did, drilling an opening eighth and quarter in 11.05 and 21.65. War Front continued the frantic pace into the stretch, getting three furlongs in an eye-popping 33.08, then was under vigorous urging to finish up in 45.02 before completely shutting down the engines once Ellis rose up in the saddle a few strides past the wire. The gallop out was almost non-existent but 59.16 for five furlongs for those interested in the arithmetic.

The work was unorthodox perhaps but certainly not atypical for War Front, who worked a similarly frantic five furlongs in 57 and change a week out from his second-place finish behind Henny Hughes in the Vosburgh. And besides, who's to question the training methods of Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens?

- Mike Welsch

Churchill Downs

Cloudy, 64o; Track fast; turf firm


Summerly (four furlongs, 49.60 seconds): She broke off right at the half-mile pole and thus had no run-up for the drill. After a moderate first furlong, she went evenly through successive furlongs of 12.21, 12.24, and 12.21 seconds. A pretty decent work by last year's Kentucky Oaks winner, who has been off form this year. She was unlikely to make the starting field when entries were formalized Wednesday.


Pegasus Wind(quarter-mile, 23.60 seconds): This work did not make the tab, since he only blew out a quarter-mile through the stretch. He broke away from the pony near the quarter pole and looked sharp, though any horse racing at this level ought to be able to turn in a decent quarter-mile move. Comes off good effort in the Champagne Stakes.

Three Juvenile contenders galloped on Tuesday. Principle Secret was a little choppy when he first broke away from the pony to begin his gallop, and though he looked a bit better coming through the lane the second time, he was not nearly as smooth as Stormello, his conqueror in the Norfolk Stakes, who has had two good gallops here Monday and Tuesday. Longshot Teuflesberg rolled around the first turn at the end of his gallop.

Several European runners who arrived on Sunday made their first appearances on the track. Most did little more than jog with a pony, and many visited the paddock, including Ouija Board, who will be running in the Filly and Mare Turf for the third straight year.

Mile entrant Rob Roy got to hack around on the Churchill turf course.

Classic runner David Junior was the lone European who appeared a bit anxious. He got lathered up on a relatively cool morning.

Classic runner Lava Man had a busy morning. He jogged with a pony, visited the paddock, then had a lengthy gallop of more than two miles that included clicking off 14-second furlongs for about a half-mile at the end of his exercise. Despite all that, he trotted off the track looking fresh. He will not be lacking for fitness.

Also making a positive impression was Sprint runner Nightmare Affair, who galloped enthusiastically for the second straight morning.


Asi Siempre, who is expected to run in the Distaff, worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on the Polytrack. My Typhoon, bound for the Filly and Mare Turf, worked five furlongs in 59 seconds.

- Jay Privman