11/25/2010 3:48PM

Bruce's Dream has plenty to prove in Citation

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It was a tall order, facing many of the best middle-distance grass runners the Breeders’ Cup could muster. But there he was, the lone California-bred in the field, unimpressed and undaunted to the end. The fact that The Usual Q. T. finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, beaten only by Goldikova and Gio Ponti, gave renewed solace to the notion that a good horse can come from anywhere, and that the accomplishments of this particular good horse looked even better in the wake of his performance at Churchill Downs.

In the narrow view, Saturday’s $250,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park seemed like the kind of race at which The Usual Q. T. could fire his second-best shot and win. Neither Goldikova nor Gio Ponti are involved. However, trainer Jim Cassidy has a much bigger picture in mind, a lot of it having to do with the health and well-being of the horse, not to mention the prospects of a 2011 campaign that could be every bit as ambitious as 2010.

“He came out of the Breeders’ Cup great,” Cassidy said Thanksgiving morning. “I didn’t train him much during the rains, so there was no way he could have been ready for the Citation. The plan is to run him in the San Gabriel.”

Cassidy was referring to the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap on Dec. 27 at Santa Anita. As for Saturday’s main event, the field for the 1 1/16-mile turf race is of widely mixed heritage, featuring horses bred in Ireland, Germany, Kentucky, and Virginia, as well as four Californians carrying on for The Usual Q.T.

If one of them is going to follow in Q. T.’s footsteps, the betting here is on Bruce’s Dream. He is a 4-year-old, gelded, cloudy gray son of Atticus named for his breeder and owner, Bruce Corwin, chairman and CEO of Metropolitan Theatres, a family-owed chain spread throughout the western United States and British Columbia.

Bruce’s Dream has won 6 of 8 starts for trainer Mike Puype, most recently beating Colgan’s Chip and Liberian Freighter in the California Cup Mile on Oct. 30. Both of those horses will be back for the Citation, along with Del Mar Mile winner Enriched, Woodbine Mile winner Court Vision, and Shoemaker Mile winner Victor’s Cry. Liberian Freighter, it should be noted, won the Oak Tree Mile, beating Colgan’s Chip by a nostril.

This makes for a fascinating Citation, with a mad scramble in store through that final furlong. Puype says Bruce’s Dream is up to the challenge.

“That horse will run through a wall to get there,” Puype declared. “You see it once in awhile when you train a horse like him. It’s that look in their eye, going from every work to every race, they just want to do whatever you ask them to do.

“Court Vision is obviously the most accomplished horse in the race,” Puype noted. “But you don’t know if shipping out here after running in the Breeders’ Cup he’s going to come out firing or not. All I know is that my horse will give a good account, I can almost guarantee.”
For the effervescent, chronically positive Puype, such equivocation is rare, underlining his respect for the Citation field.

After last Sunday, any horse in the Puype stable appeared to be in jeopardy of being dwarfed by the star power of the 2-year-old Turbulent Descent. A daughter of Congrats, Turbulent Descent won the Mocassin Stakes under a pull to remain unbeaten in two starts. Puype was asked if he learned anything about the filly that day.

“Not really,” he replied. “Only that I think we’re in pretty good shape for the Starlet.”

Bruce’s Dream showed similar promise as a 2-year-old and won at first asking.

“When he was younger, he was battling shins all the time,” Puype recalled. “Even though he ran impressively that first time, I had to geld him, he was getting so big and so heavy on his front end. It was just costing us too much time. Had we not gelded him, I don’t think he would have ever seen his second race.”

Bruce’s Dream re-emerged as a 3-year-old grass horse in the summer of 2009 with two wins at Del Mar. After that, he made his stakes debut in the Morvich Handicap down the hill at Santa Anita with a third to California Flag that looked pretty good after California Flag came right back to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

“He just got too far back on that fast Santa Anita course and couldn’t make up the ground on California Flag,” the trainer said. “The only other time he lost, he had nowhere to go the last part in the Del Mar Mile and just did get beat.”

By now, it is pretty clear how tough it is for even the best of the breed to remain undefeated. Puype and Corwin get credit for campaigning Bruce’s Dream carefully to this point, but now they are about to find out what the water’s like in the deep end of the pool.