10/01/2008 11:00PM

Casino Drive arrives for BC Classic


ARCADIA, Calif. - Casino Drive, the winner of the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park in May who missed the Belmont Stakes in June because of a bruised foot, arrived in California on Wednesday to prepare for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Thursday, Casino Drive was in quarantine at Hollywood Park. He was scheduled to be released from quarantine on Friday and will have his first exercise on the racetrack on Saturday or Sunday, according to Nobutaka Tada, spokesman for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto and trainer Kasuo Fujisawa.

Casino Drive has made two starts in his career, winning a maiden race by 11 1/2 lengths at Kyoto, Japan, in February and the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 10 in his stakes debut. In the Peter Pan at 1o1/8 miles, Casino Drive drew away from his eight rivals to win by 5 3/4 lengths as the 5-4 favorite.

Casino Drive was considered a challenger to Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown in the Belmont Stakes, but was withdrawn on the morning of the race. At the time, his connections indicated they would return for the BC Classic.

"The stone bruise took a lot longer than expected," Tada said. "He's been picking up [his training] since September."

It is unclear whether Casino Drive will have a prep race at Santa Anita in coming days. There is an opportunity for a start in an allowance race here on Oct. 12.

"We don't know yet," Tada said. "He may go directly to the Classic. We'll see."

Expectations high for Storybook

Storybook, a 4-year-old filly, makes her stakes debut and first start for trainer John Sadler in Saturday's $65,000 Swingtime Stakes at Santa Anita. Sadler has much bigger goals this month for Storybook than a restricted stakes. The filly has already won three races in her four-race career, in England and Kentucky. "She looks like a nice one," Sadler said.

A win could lead to a start in the $250,000 Las Palmas Handicap at a mile on turf on Oct. 24.

Storybook joined Sadler's stable after recovering from an injury suffered last fall, which was diagnosed after a win in an allowance race at Keeneland. Owned by Joseph Allen, Storybook was trained last year by Patrick Biancone, who has since been suspended for a medication violation.

"She got injured after her last race and they wanted her to come out here for the synthetic" tracks, Sadler said.

For her comeback, Storybook will start on turf in the one-mile Swingtime. The race has drawn a field of six. Storybook won her only career start on turf last fall. She has worked well at Santa Anita in recent weeks, including six furlongs in 1:10.80 on Tuesday.

"She's got a long stride," Sadler said.

Storybook is a closer in a race largely void of pace. Moujane will have the early lead and may prove hard to catch. Trained by Rafael Becerra, she has won 4 of 7 starts this year, winning a maiden race and three allowance races or optional claimers. Moujane was sixth in the Grade 3 Palomar Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 30, leading to the final furlong before finishing three lengths behind Vacare.

Renegade Ruby is seeking her first stakes win. Trained by Julio Canani, she won an optional claimer at a mile on turf at Del Mar on Aug. 21, her second victory in her last four starts.

Thor's Echo injured

Thor's Echo, the champion sprinter of 2006, will not start this month in the Breeders' Cup Sprint because of a splint bone injury, trainer Doug O'Neill said on Thursday.

"We're on hold," O'Neill said.

Thor's Echo, the winner of the 2006 BC Sprint at Churchill Downs, has finished fourth in two starts this year - the Grade 2 True North Stakes at Belmont Park and the Grade 2 Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga. Owned by Darley Stable, Thor's Echo was nominated for Sunday's $150,000 California Cup Sprint, but was not entered.

Albertus Maximus to BC Mile

A third-place finish by Albertus Maximus in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes on Sept. 27 has led trainer Vladimir Cerin to point the 4-year-old to the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 25.

Owned by Brandon and Marianne Chase, Albertus Maximus finished 1o3/4 lengths behind Well Armed in the Goodwood, closing from eighth in a field of 10 to be closest to the front at the finish. The Goodwood, a key prep to the BC Classic, was Albertus Maximus's second start for Cerin, preceded by a victory in the Windy Sands Handicap at a mile at Del Mar on Sept. 1 in track-record time of 1:35.37.

Albertus Maximus's success at a mile has given Cerin confidence for the BC Dirt Mile.

"He broke the track record at Del Mar," Cerin said. "If he breaks the track record here, he'll win at the distance."

Through Wednesday, the one-mile track record on Santa Anita's synthetic main track is 1:33.37, set by El Gato Malo last January.

Cerin said the BC Classic was not a consideration for Albertus Maximus.

"I don't think he's won longer than a mile and a sixteenth, and I don't want to put him past his comfort zone," Cerin said.

Officials water track to battle heat

Santa Anita watered its synthetic main track on three occasions before and during the races on Wednesday in an effort to combat high temperatures. With the thermostat at or near 100 degrees, the track was watered before the first, third, and fifth races, according to track superintendent Richard Tedesco.

After Wednesday's races, the course was roto-tilled, a routine maintenance procedure used to avoid compaction in the top layers of the Pro-Ride surface. The surface was installed during the summer, replacing a Cushion Track surface that failed to drain sufficiently during wet weather last winter. The new surface is expected to drain well during wet weather, but no rain has fallen since it was installed.

There is a forecast of rain for Saturday, but Tedesco expects the precipitation to amount to only two-tenths of an inch.

"That's as much as I put on there" Wednesday, he said.