10/26/2012 3:46PM

Breeders' Cup Clocker Report: Amazombie breezes just like he did before winning 2011 Sprint

Barbara D. Livingston
Shackleford, one of the top contenders in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, appeared comfortable galloping Friday morning at Santa Anita despite warm temperatures.

SANTA ANITA Track Fast Sunny Temp. 66

ARCADIA, Calif. – Friday was the calm before the storm as far as this year’s Breeders’ Cup is concerned. Not the “Frankenstorm” heading up the East Coast that could impact travel plans for dozens of potential Breeders’ Cup starters early next week, but the storm of workers expected to rain down on the Santa Anita main track and turf course over the next two mornings.

Only two Breeders’ Cup hopefuls breezed on Friday and observers had to wake up almost in the middle of the night to arrive on time to see the first of the pair, defending Sprint champion Amazombie, who worked minutes after the main track opened for training at 5 a.m. The second was Merit Man, who did not complete his morning’s activity until nearly three hours later.

[BREEDERS' CUP WORKOUTS: Full DRF coverage, Mike Welsch video reports]

As was the case on Thursday, the track was fast but definitely on the deep side with the overwhelming majority of workers, Breeders’ Cup and otherwise, seeming to labor over the surface, especially during the latter stages of their breezes.

Amazombie (five furlongs in 1:00.39 for Sprint): Amazombie worked over a fresh and relatively quiet racetrack shortly after 5 a.m. with exercise rider Ignacio Vasquez aboard. Vasquez let Amazombie get up a pretty good head of steam running up to the five-furlong pole but quickly got him to settle into stride through a 12.45-second opening furlong. Amazombie gradually picked up the pace around the turn and was striding out well once coming into better view under the lights of the grandstand inside the eighth pole. Vasquez gave Amazombie just a little mild encouragement with the reins nearing the wire and the Eclipse Award champ responded by galloping out with interest into the turn, completing six furlongs in 1:14.13 before pulling up seven-eighths in 1:29.23.

The final time of Amazombie’s work on Friday virtually matched that of his final work at Santa Anita prior to shipping and winning the Sprint at Churchill Downs one year ago.

“We wanted to go a minute and change and he went a minute and change,” said trainer Bill Spawr. “We might do a little something with him Thursday, come back and two-minute-lick him like we did before he won the Sprint last year. We ran some blood tests on him after his last race and they were a little off, showed a bit of stress and dehydration. But all the tests are good now and I’m confident he’ll run a big race on Saturday. The only worry I have is if the track is on the heavy side again like it was when he ran last time in the Sprint Championship.”

Merit Man (five furlongs in 1:04.08 for Juvenile Sprint): The undefeated winner of the Tim Conway Stakes did not appear to be much of a work horse from the look of the breezes on his r é sum é and he certainly gave that impression live and in person on Friday. Breaking off three lengths behind stablemate Diamond Flush, Merit Man walked through an opening quarter in 26.51 and three-eighths in 39.14, ate a lot of dirt when lugging in a bit and edging closer to his partner near the eighth pole, and then was under steady pressure to finally catch and get clear of Diamond Flush while remaining on his left lead through the wire. Despite the slow early fractions, Merit Man barely shaded 25 under urging for his closing quarter-mile in a less than appealing-looking drill.

There were gallopers aplenty on Friday, those training later in the morning decked out in their personalized Breeders’ Cup saddle towels.

Trainer Bob Baffert sent out a seemingly endless stream of Breeders’ Cup contenders throughout the morning, the contingent led by Game On Dude, who, from the looks of his gallops, certainly would not give one the impression he is the morning-line favorite and horse to beat in the Classic. Game On Dude certainly doesn’t have the prettiest way of moving during his routing gallops, but local observers have cautioned that’s just him. Bodemeister looked even less appealing galloping at Churchill Downs in the weeks leading up to this year’s Kentucky Derby then ran his eyeballs out for Baffert on the big day.

Among the more eye-catching gallopers on Friday were the Dale Romans pair of Dullahan (Classic/Turf) and Shackleford (Dirt Mile), along with Todd Pletcher’s In Lingerie (Ladies’ Classic/Filly and Mare Turf).

Dullahan has looked good everywhere he has gone this season, at Gulfstream during the winter, Churchill prior to the Derby, in New York before the Belmont, and now here. His action still suggests he would be better served, at least theoretically, to compete in the Turf rather than on dirt in the Classic. Shackleford is also a striking specimen but did appear to regress some this summer at Saratoga. The game winner of the Met Mile, Shackleford has a tendency to get hot even during routine gallops, but he seemed much more at home over the Santa Anita strip and never turned a hair despite temperatures that had climbed into the 70s by the time he trained late Friday morning.