11/04/2011 12:18PM

Breeders' Cup: O'Brien contingent stay on main track Friday, Sea Moon has easy turf breeze

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Alysse Jacobs
Aidan O'Brien's Breeders' Cup Classic entrant So You Think canters on a muddy Churchill Downs main track Friday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The fireworks from Thursday morning, when cancellation of turf training because of rain led to a showdown between overseas horsemen and Churchill  Downs personnel, gave way to a more civilized Friday, with the grass course back open and everyone making nice.

“Yesterday was yesterday, and now we must go forward,” said trainer Michael Stoute, who was at the heart of the Thursday argument because Sea Moon, his BC Turf starter, was supposed to work on grass Thursday.

Instead, Sea Moon was timed in a slow 41.20 seconds for a three-furlong workout around the dogs Friday morning, “just to stretch his legs,” said a refreshingly cheerful Stout.

Churchill’s grass course was opened for turf training Friday despite having absorbed close to an inch of rain since precipitation began Thursday morning at about 9:30. When training had been canceled the day before, the rain had only begun and the course had absorbed almost no water. Later Thursday, Churchill ran the Commonwealth Stakes on turf.

Most Euros, however, stuck to a very wet main track Friday morning, including Aidan O’Brien, whose horses for Saturday Breeders’ Cup  races paid their first visit to the racetrack after arriving Tuesday night and clearing U.S.D.A. quarantine late on Thursday.

O’Brien’s horses were scheduled to emerge from the quarantine facility at 6:30 a.m. but didn’t arrive at the gap onto the track until almost a half-hour later, where, single file, they encountered a surface the likes of which none of them had ever set foot upon before. At the head of the line was Mile starter Zoffany, who was followed by the stable star, So You Think, a gorgeous dark bay beast  who has held together well despite a busy 2011 racing schedule. Then came the Turf runners, St Nicholas Abbey and Await the Dawn, followed by juveniles Wrote, Daddy Long Legs, and Crusade, with Marathon longshot Harrison’s Cave bringing up the rear.

The group made their way slowly around the track going the “wrong” way, clockwise, until reaching the homestretch for the second time, at which point they were turned and released, one at a time, for a one-lap gallop.

“They had a nice little canter,” said O’Brien when cornered by media shortly after the training session.

Sea Moon, who made a very nice impression Thursday, was the only horse to post a timed workout on either racing surface here Friday.

Turf course may be softer along the inside

The turf, meanwhile, took the extended period of rain surprisingly well, thanks in part to Churchill’s vacuum drainage system. Walking the course during the renovation break, the surface had far less give than one might have expected, and seemed firmer than the “yielding” rating officially applied Friday morning.

One Englishman, who works the Newmarket course, was out on the turf track with a pointed stick that Euros use to measure course depth; he said the grass was “good to firm” by English standards. The Churchill course, however, is quite steeply banked, and the inside path along the hedge definitely is the softest lane on the course. That will especially be the case in the homestretch, which gets less sunlight due to the angle of the sun this time of year and already was softer in spots Friday morning than the backstretch.

On Friday, hope to see your turf gamble rallying down the center of the course.