10/19/2012 3:06PM

Breeders' Cup: Godolphin trio works out in rain

Barbara D. Livingston
Breeders’ Cup hopefuls Questing (left) and Alpha work five furlongs in company Friday at the Greentree training facility in Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. − The rain was teeming down here on a dreary fall morning, bringing most activity to a halt on Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track Friday.

A mile or so away, it was business as usual at the Greentree training facility, where horses owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley and Godolphin operations were going through their regular routine over the Polytrack surface.

Activity included workouts by three of Godolphin’s Grade 1 winners, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, who are pointing to Breeders’ Cup races in two weeks at Santa Anita.

Emcee, winner of the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 1, worked a brilliant five furlongs in 59.18 seconds as he prepares for a start, most likely in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He also will be pre-entered in the $1 million Dirt Mile.

“He couldn’t have breezed any better,” McLaughlin said. “Just moving great.”

Emcee, with Roger Horgan up, worked right-handed, or the opposite way that races are run in North America. McLaughlin has done that, previously explaining that he feels by switching directions once in a while helps keep horses sounder.

Emcee broke off from the five-furlong pole and went right-handed to the quarter pole at the Greentree facility. With the rain coming down, Horgan maintained a good hold on the reins, and Emcee worked primarily on his own, getting his final three furlongs in 34.09 seconds. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.98 and wasn’t easily pulled up.

“What would he do if I asked him to run?” Horgan said back at the barn, where Emcee was dragging his hotwalker around.

Neal McLaughlin, assistant to his brother Kiaran, said, “That was just like his work before the Forego.”

Kiaran McLaughlin said Emcee would be pre-entered in the Sprint and the Dirt Mile but would most likely run in the Sprint because all of his races have been seven furlongs or shorter.

McLaughlin said he would like to enter both races − in the event Emcee drew poorly in the Sprint − but Breeders’ Cup rules preclude a horse entering in more than one race on the same day.

Shortly after Emcee left the track, Alpha, the dead-heat Travers winner, and Questing, the Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama winner, stepped on for their works. As they did, the rain intensified.

Alpha, under Rob Massey, and Questing, under Javier Fragoso, attempted to work five furlongs in company. But Alpha broke off about 1 1/2 lengths in front of Questing, who was on the outside, and basically stayed that far in front throughout the move, completing five furlongs in 1:01.39. They got their last quarter in 24.30 seconds.

“The rain was starting to come down harder, and I think it might have affected the next team of works, but no big deal,” McLaughlin said. “They’re fit. They’re working weekly and not missing any days.”

Questing was viewed as one of the more exciting horses in training after her nine-length romp in the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 18, which followed her 4 1/4-length score in the Coaching Club. But then she was beaten a head by My Miss Aurelia as the 2-5 favorite in the Grade 1, $1 million Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 22. Questing did give My Miss Aurelia, an undefeated champion, seven pounds that day.

While Questing hasn’t been talked about as much since the Cotillion, McLaughlin said he doesn’t believe Questing has lost any luster. He just believes the Ladies’ Classic − with champions Royal Delta, My Miss Aurelia, and Awesome Feather − has given people plenty to talk about it.

“It’s definitely a tough race,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll be okay.”

More so this year than in the past, McLaughlin has taken advantage of the amenities afforded him by training at Greentree, where many of his horses come as early as May. In addition to being able to keep his horses on a regular work schedule, McLaughlin can turn his horses out for hours in a grassy paddock and/or put them in a round pen.

McLaughlin said he is more comfortable with the composition of the Polytrack this year than in the past, noting that it has stayed more consistent.

“We’re maintaining it different this year,” McLaughlin said. “We have talked to a lot of people. We got as much information as we could about different synthetic tracks.”

McLaughlin said Darley president Jimmy Bell and Greentree groundskeeper Jim Till “bought equipment that was necessary to fix it up.

“It’s meant a lot to us with the Godolphin runners to be able to train right-handed, left-handed, whatever we wanted to, whenever we wanted to do it,” he said.

Despite the fact these horses are training over a synthetic surface, McLaughlin said he is happy the Breeders’ Cup races will be run on dirt.

“I’m glad we’re going to the dirt because over the last four or five years they’ve all trained well here and didn’t run great on synthetic when we went to Keeneland a few times,” he said. “It doesn’t tell you that they’re going to run well on it.”

McLaughlin said Emcee, Alpha, Questing, and Fortify − who worked a half-mile in 48 seconds on Thursday − would all work once more at Greentree before shipping to Southern California on Oct. 27. It’s Tricky, McLaughlin’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint probable, is based at Belmont and will ship out a few days later.