10/21/2007 11:00PM

Cast gathering for big show

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Tiago, winner of the Goodwood in his last race, exercises over the Monmouth Park track on Monday.
OCEANPORT, N.J. - For a summertime track like Monmouth Park to open for an unprecedented four-day fall meeting beginning Wednesday, it must be something special. And it is. The Breeders' Cup is coming to town, encompassing two days of BC racing for the first time, headed by a $5 million Classic that should decide Horse of the Year.

They are coming from all points for the Classic. Any Given Saturday and Lawyer Ron completed their training at Belmont Park over the weekend, Curlin prepped at Keeneland, Diamond Stripes has been at Aqueduct, George Washington (the horse) is heading here from Ireland, and Hard Spun, like George Washington (the first President), is crossing the Delaware.

From California, Tiago already has arrived, and Awesome Gem is scheduled to be on the grounds Wednesday. And they all will have to get past the most accomplished horse in the field, Street Sense, who in the past 12 months has won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Kentucky Derby, and Travers Stakes, and last week was the first Classic runner to take up residence at Monmouth.

"I think it's going to be a great Classic," said Carl Nafzger, the trainer of Street Sense. "I'm glad to be a part of it."

This is the 24th Breeders' Cup World Championships, but it is the first time it will be held at Monmouth, and it will be expanding to 11 races over two days. Monmouth traditionally races in the summer, but will have racing on Wednesday and Thursday before the BC cards Friday and Saturday.

Friday will feature the three new Breeders' Cup races - the Filly and Mare Sprint, Dirt Mile, and Juvenile Turf. On Saturday, the Elite Eight will be run - the Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile, Filly and Mare Turf, Sprint, Mile, Distaff, Turf, and Classic.

Entries were to be taken and posts drawn on Tuesday for all 11 races.

Temperatures in the area have been well above normal for the past week, and are to remain so through this week, with highs Friday and Saturday in the mid- to upper 60's, according to the National Weather Service. There was, however, a 60 percent chance of showers on Tuesday, and there is a 40 percent chance of showers on Saturday.

The possibility of an off track may keep the Classic field at nine, which is the number of horses who were pre-entered last week. Diamond Stripes also was cross-entered in the Dirt Mile, but trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. on Monday said an off track might embolden him to put Diamond Stripes in the Classic.

If so, Diamond Stripes will be facing a deep, talented field. Any Given Saturday, Curlin, Hard Spun, Lawyer Ron, and Street Sense all have accomplished enough during the year to secure Horse of the Year with a victory. Tiago has displayed significant progress in the past few months, Awesome Gem just missed against Tiago in their last start in the Goodwood Stakes, and George Washington is one of the world's best horses, though his form on turf is far superior to his form on dirt.

Diamond Stripes, who most recently won the Meadowlands Cup, was one of several Classic horses who turned in their final works on Monday. He was timed in 59.27 seconds for five furlongs at Aqueduct.

At Keeneland, Curlin - whose biggest wins this year are the Preakness Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup - went a half-mile in 50.20 seconds with his regular exercise rider, Carmen Rosas. Robby Albarado has the mount on Saturday.

"He went smooth as glass," his trainer, Steve Asmussen, said from Keeneland.

At Delaware Park, Hard Spun breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 with jockey Mario Pino aboard. He is coming off a victory over Street Sense in the Kentucky Cup Classic.

"He went by himself and he went well," Larry Jones, who trains Hard Spun, said from Delaware Park. "All I wanted to do was put a little air in him. I gave him a really good gallop myself on Sunday."

On Sunday at Belmont Park, trainer Todd Pletcher worked both Any Given Saturday and Lawyer Ron five furlongs on the training track.

Daily Racing Form caught Any Given Saturday in 1:02.09. Garrett Gomez, who will ride him in the Classic, was aboard. Lawyer Ron went in 1:01 with exercise rider Eddie King. John Velazquez rides him in the Classic.

Lawyer Ron, who was second to Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, has shown a tendency to pull early in his races, and he was similarly aggressive the first part of his workout.

"That's kind of him," Pletcher said. "He was on the bridle early, but he was manageable. If you allowed him to, he could work extremely fast. He was eager to run, but controllable."

Any Given Saturday owns a victory over Hard Spun and Curlin at Monmouth in the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 5. He is the only horse in the Classic field with a win at Monmouth.

"We've always held him in the highest regard," Pletcher said. Any Given Saturday bruised a foot in the Kentucky Derby, but subsequently has won three straight races.

"Since then, he's been spectacular," Pletcher said.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch