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Breeders' Cup Clocker: Havre de Grace goes easily
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The last of the major final workouts for the 2011 Breeders' Cup from locally based horses took place Monday at Churchill Downs where such notable contenders as Havre de Grace (Classic), defending Sprint winner Big Drama and Juvenile Fillies favorite My Miss Aurelia breezed under moderating skies over a fast main track.
Monday also marked the first sightings from the large European contingent who continue to arrive on a daily basis for this year's Cup, with Meeznah (Marathon) and Questing (Juvenile Fillies) both getting their first feel for the track jogging after the renovation break.
Work of the Day (dirt)
Golden Mystery (four furlongs in 47.40 seconds, according to track clockers, for the Filly and Mare Sprint). While the majority of the works on Monday were nothing more than maintenance moves, Golden Mystery was having none of that, breaking from the three-eighths pole and zipping through fractions of 23.20 and 35.40 seconds before galloping out five-eighths in 1:00.80 while not asked for her abundant speed at any time. Golden Mystery doesn't have the prettiest way of moving, but she is razor-sharp at the moment, the caveat to this morning's impressive drill being that she is a very good work horse whom I've seen do just this type of thing on several previous occasions down at Calder over the course of her career.
Work of the day (turf)
Shkespeare Shaliyah (four furlongs in 51.01 seconds for the Juvenile Turf). The old saying "time only matters when you're in jail" applies to this work. After making a very nice visual impression warming up over the main track, the Grade 3 winner stepped onto the turf, loped through an opening quarter around the cones in 27.76 seconds then came down the stretch in 23.25 under little encouragement before galloping out nicely around the turn. A stretch-running 2-year-old, he appears to be heading into the Juvenile Turf in peak form.
The remainder of this morning's Churchill Downs Breeders' Cup workouts, in the order which they occurred:
Seeker (four furlongs in 50.16 for the Juvenile Sprint). If you've seen one of trainer Steve Asmussen's final Monday preps for a major race, you've pretty much seen them all. That was basically the case again this morning, with Seeker the first of a quartet of Asmussen's Breeders' Cup hopefuls to turn in little more than maintenance breezes under the lights well before the renovation break.
Seeker came away from the pole easily enough, covering his opening furlong in a leisurely 13.28 seconds, but began to accelerate around the bend and was on a tight left rein while attempting to bear out slightly entering the stretch. He came to hand to complete his final quarter in 24.82 before being pulled up abruptly once hitting the wire, bearing out again when resisting the sudden restraint around the clubhouse turn.
Cease (four furlongs in 51.12 seconds for the Marathon). It was no surprise to see the easiest of half-mile drills from the lightly raced but rapidly improving gelding, considering he's slated to run 1 3/4 miles on Saturday. Cease simply loped through nearly bookend early fractions of 13.28 and 26.32 seconds, then completed the easily move by coming home his final quarter in 24.80 for same connections who won the 2010 Classic with Blame.
Sum of the Parts (four furlongs in 49.50 for the Juvenile Sprint). There was a little more intent here than from the majority of workers before the break, with Sum of the Parts looking sharp completing his final quarter in 24.58 seconds while under some restraint at the end. He galloped out willingly enough, getting five furlongs in 1:03.06 and pulling up six panels in 1:18.50.
My Miss Aurelia (four furlongs in 49.53 seconds for the Juvenile Fillies). The Juvenile Fillies favorite relaxed well for such a quick, inexperienced filly, especially after being gathered in by her rider following an 11-and-change eighth mile split around the turn. Like the other Asmussen workers this morning, she was quickly taken in hand and shut down during the gallop-out, although not quite as abruptly as Seeker had been about a half-hour earlier.
Wilburn (four furlongs in 49.89 seconds for the Dirt Mile). Nothing fast, but a very positive-looking move nonetheless, considering how effortlessly the red-hot 3-year-old was traveling in what appeared to be little more than an open gallop. He has given every indication this week that he continues to maintain peak form heading into the Cup.
Animal Spirits (four furlongs in 49.16 for the Juvenile Turf). He worked inside stablemate Trading Paint, and as a result of the company went a little quicker than most of the other pre-break workers. Animal Spirits rated kindly while posting a couple of near-identical eighth-mile splits to open the drill. He did appear to try to drift some turning for home and nearing the wire while under just a bit of urging to stay on even terms with his mate at the end. Must keep in mind this is a turf horse working on the dirt when attempting to assess this work.
Tapizar (four furlongs in 49.52 seconds for the Dirt Mile). Another maintenance move from Team Asmussen, although the speedster was definitely pulling a little more than fellow Dirt Mile candidate Wilburn while also bobbling briefly near the eighth pole.
Big Drama (four furlongs in 49.32 seconds for the Sprint). Defending Sprint champ continues to show improvement with each successive work. He displayed his affinity for the Churchill Downs strip with an easy half-mile trial in which he went off at a relatively leisurely pace (25.11-second opening quarter) and finished in 24.21 while barely asked by jockey Jeffrey Sanchez. He galloped out a solid five-eighths in 1:02.71, pulled up six furlongs in 1:16.88, and comes in looking very fit off the deeper track at Calder.
Havre de Grace (five furlongs in 1:01.79 for Classic). She returned to her favorite surface, dirt, with little more than an easy maintenance move following a good but not great five-furlong trial a week earlier at Keeneland. She cruised along at a relatively even pace and was just niggled on a couple of times by jockey Gabriel Saez to complete her final quarter in 24.73 seconds, although it would have been nice to see a little sharper finish and gallop-out coming off her last work. It's hard to knock anything she did this morning but just not the "wow" kind of work one would liked to have seen considering the imposing task at hand on Saturday.
Candrea (four furlongs in 48.67 for the Juvenile Fillies). The young filly left running from the three-furlong pole for an easy maintenance type move but lost her focus a bit through the stretch, taking a somewhat erratic path both before and after swapping leads back and forth near midstretch in her first serious run over the local strip.
Apriority (four furlongs in 50.26 for the Sprint). Big Drama's less-heralded stablemate has never been a great work horse, especially when going on his own, and considering the fact he left the pole under wraps (13.19 for the opening furlong), the slower final time is no cause for alarm. He did finish willingly enough, a final quarter in 24.54, aided by a couple of taps of the stick from Sanchez through early stretch.
Courageous Cat (four furlongs in 51.42 seconds for the Mile). He has made a very favorable impression all week, but I didn't expect to get much more than an easy, maintenance-type drill this morning, and that's just what I saw. Courageous Cat cruised through a 26.80-second opening quarter and perhaps could have finished just a little more strongly considering the slow pace, but it is difficult to make any real judgment off this type of maneuver.
Court Vision (five furlongs in 1:01.70 for the Mile). He is heading to the same race as Courageous Cat but took a much different approach during his final prep, as he was asked hard to finish strongly down the lane, getting several cracks of the whip to complete his final quarter mile in 23.09, although he didn't quite sustain his run through the gallop out, pulling up six furlongs in just 1:17.16.
Customer Base (four furlongs in 49.60 seconds according to track clockers for the Juvenile Fillies Turf). Like Court Vision,she worked fast but was under a vigorous hand ride through the final furlong.
Great Attack (five furlongs in 1:02.81 for the Turf Sprint). He was very unimpressive over the Keeneland turf course a week ago and did look a little better today in what was an average work at best.
A couple of gallopers worth noting this morning were Stacelita (Filly and Mare Turf) and Fort Loudon (Juvenile). Stacelita has looked like a million dollars since arriving from New York while training with a protective bubble blinker. Fort Loudon (Juvenile) was very keen, galloping at a near two-minute clip throughout much of this morning's training session.