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Clocker: Ferneley, Richard's Kid shine
ARCADIA, Calif. - Zenyatta's first appearance on the racetrack and a half-mile breeze by defending Mile champ Goldikova highlighted Thursday morning's activity. Zenyatta did little more than gallop an easy mile and visit the paddock, while Goldikova went an easy half-mile in 51.95 seconds behind stablemate Only Green, who cruised the same distance in 52.72.
The following are some of the observations I've made after watching a majority of Saturday's Breeders' Cup contenders train at Santa Anita over the past week.
Zip Quik: Although his final time of 1:00.69 for Tuesday's five-furlong work was credible, it was hard to like the fact the graded-stakes-placed colt could not get past stablemate Grand Captain, a 3-year-old maiden, who was under less pressure coming to the wire and during the gallop-out.
Viscount Nelson: Had an uneventful gallop over the main track on Thursday. Looks like a major player.
Pounced: Ditto for this European invader, who galloped willingly over the turf Thursday and will race on Lasix for the first time on Breeders' Cup Day.
Bridgetown: Worked an easy five furlongs in company with stablemate and fellow Breeders' Cup contender House of Grace over the main track, and although he went relatively slowly appeared to have plenty left in the tank while slightly the stronger of the pair during the gallop-out. Has turned in several strong gallops since that drill.
King Ledley: Irish invader breezed over the course for the first time Tuesday and was reaching out nicely while kept well in hand by jockey Rafael Bejarano. Worth a look at a square price.
Buzzword: Has been put through a pretty extensive training program since being released from quarantine earlier this week along with stablemates Gladiatorus and Vale of York. Did not handle the grueling regime quite as well as his mates on Tuesday but held up a lot better the following two mornings.
Noble Court: Loved his work Saturday. Really poured it on through the stretch after relaxing away from the pole. Shaded 23 seconds for his final quarter-mile when put to some pressure down the stretch. Couldn't be doing any better. Would have been my top pick if he had not drawn the rail.
California Flag: Was not permitted to show his best speed in his final work, a measured half-mile in 48 seconds. He got into an unscheduled blowout a couple of days later when he lost his rider while schooling at the stable gate and ran loose the wrong way down the stretch. Fortunately, he seemed none the worse for wear during a routine gallop the following morning. Pressed hard on fast pace in 2008 Turf Sprint, but might get loose a little easier this time around.
Get Funky: Worked very fast without the benefit of a run-up to the pole, zipping his first five furlongs in 58.41 before getting a little leg weary at the end.
Cannonball: Really motored around the turn and through the stretch in the last of his six works over the local course. Peaking at the right time.
Diamondrella: Completed all her major preparations in New York but did get the opportunity to gallop down the hill and across the dirt as a prelude to a fairly aggressive 1 1/2-mile gallop over the turf Thursday.
Strike the Deal: Dealing with foot issues, he has not worked since arriving locally.
Desert Code: Won this event from far back a year ago, but was full of run throughout a swift half-mile drill in 46.66 earlier this week, completing the work in 22.57 while under pressure much of the way. Seems the intention will be to keep him closer to what may not be as swift a pace in defense of his title.
Zensational: Delivered as advertised in his final work, a runaway freight train who had a little trouble making the turn into the stretch. Worked a half-mile in 45:34 under wraps, galloped out five-eighths in 58.08. Freakishly fast but rail draw is the issue, especially with speedy Fatal Bullet breaking just to his outside.
Cost of Freedom: Showing no signs of the physical issues that led to his scratch on the morning of 2008 Sprint. A little headstrong to begin his final work, but settled readily to breeze six furlongs in 1:12.58 under a loose rein. Expect him to be in early mix as well.
Fatal Bullet: Appeared to tire just slightly at the end of a decent but unremarkable final work, although he looked much better than he did in his final work before running his eyeballs out behind Midnight Lute in the 2008 Sprint. Works without the blinkers he wears on race day. His early speed could be key to the outcome.
Crown of Thorns: Relatively inexperienced but improving colt turned in a sub-1:00 five-furlong work here Sunday, travelling easily enough at the end. Would have liked to have seen a little more life to his gallop-out.
Gayego: Certainly appears to be maintaining the form that carried him to an eye-catching win in the Ancient Title. Finished well, as expected, in his final work, and probably nitpicking a bit to have asked for a little more explosiveness during the gallop-out. Post and pace scenario make him the main danger.
Noble's Promise: Powered by a couple of workmates in late stretch despite going an opening half-mile in 46.79, and galloped out a very strong six furlongs in 1:11.79 on Sunday morning. Like all the McPeek 2-year-olds here this week, he's looked extremely good.
D' Funnybone: Did all his serious preparations in New York but must answer the Pro-Ride question.
Pulsion: Perhaps he's just not a very good work horse, as he broke off in front of a stablemate and was hard used most of the way to maintain a short advantage over his partner, who was wider and under less pressure throughout during final prep Sunday. Galloped out six furlongs in a very mediocre 1:15.54.
Vale of York: Has been vigorously trained since his arrival here last weekend. Blew out strongly enough, although seemed to display a little propensity to drift out at the end.
Aspire: Got away a little too fast and paid the price when tiring at the conclusion of his lone local prep. He showed more speed than expected from a colt who is a closer by nature.
William's Kitten: Was full of run working a half-mile in 46.55, shading 24 seconds for his final quarter despite throwing a 22.58 opening split. May be eligible to outrun his big odds, although, unfortunately, he's poorly drawn breaking near the outside.
Lookin at Lucky: Displayed the poise of a veteran in a well-orchestrated final drill in which he broke off five lengths behind a stablemate and readily drew well clear at the end while weaving his way through traffic at and beyond the finish line. One to beat but must overcome terrible post.
Cowboy Cal: Cruised through an easy half-mile drill Sunday and has done well here all week. Maintaining top form.
Courageous Cat: Made a very favorable impression all week, including an easy but efficient turf drill Monday. Did look a little high strung and hot while schooling at the gate at the end of Thursday's training session.
Ferneley: Might not be good enough to beat the Euros but couldn't be doing any better. His final prep on the turf was a thing of beauty last weekend. Finished full of run (final quarter in 23 seconds under a loose rein from jockey Rafael Bejarano). Could prove a real value play.
Zacinto: Has turned in several very energetic gallops since exiting quarantine earlier this week, looking much better during his training sessions than stablemate Conduit, who is the defending Turf champ. The choice.
Gladiatorus: Has kept a very busy training schedule over the past several days, capped off by a sharp blowout down the stretch Thursday.
Goldikova: Hard to knock the defending champ, especially after watching her stretch out nicely during a very easy half-mile breeze (51.95) on Thursday.
Mastercraftsman: Odds-on favorite for this event has done little here but canter and gallop over the main track trying to acclimate to the Pro-Ride.
Midshipman: Had mixed reactions to his final move, which came without the blinkers he'll wear on race day. Jogged early before zipping home his final three-eighths in 34.48, but continues to show a propensity to drift away from the rail, doing so both leaving the turn and during his gallop-out. Looks loose on the lead and dangerous if he can maintain a straight course.
Bullsbay: Ability to handle the Pro-Ride the chief concern after he struggled to stay with stablemate Smart Bid (stakes-caliber 3-year-old coming off a layoff) at the end of a relatively slow five-furlong drill Monday.
Neko Bay: Gave every indication he's maintaining his form when he zipped a sharp five furlongs in 59 seconds over the weekend. Horse for the course gets a class check.
Mambo Meister: Was a bit rank at times while working a little faster than expected and drifting at the end in his first real experience on Pro-Ride.
Pyro: Another whose ability to handle the synthetic track is the key. Was well restrained while working a slow five-eighths early Sunday morning while failing to gallop out with much energy. Turned in similarly lackluster work prior to his sixth-place finish in the 2008 Dirt Mile.
Chocolate Candy: Last of the Dirt Milers to work. Displayed his fondness for the Pro-Ride with a fairly aggressive five-furlong drill just 72 hours out from the big event.
Conduit: Defending champ did not look smooth at all in his first trip to the track Tuesday but seemed to improve as the week progressed, stretching out a lot better in a more aggressive gallop over the grass Thursday. Prepped similarly before dominating this race a year ago.
Presious Passion: Nobody has trained better this past week than this veteran, whose energy level has been off the charts on a consistent basis since his mile work on Oct. 25. Not sure if he's good enough to beat the Euros, but he gives every indication he's ready for the race of his life Saturday.
Spanish Moon: Like Zacinto, he has trained with much more energy than their more heralded stablemate Conduit for the better part of the week. Came through important gate schooling with flying colors.
Mine That Bird: Really looked pretty crabby the first couple of days I saw him gallop here, although he showed some improvement as the week wore on. Final work (five furlongs in 1:01.49) was not outstanding, but the best he's travelled all week.
Colonel John: Gave his exercise rider all he could handle to slow him down to five furlongs in 59.72 on Monday, after which he galloped out very strongly under a hold. Holding his form extremely well coming into the Classic.
Summer Bird: Makes a striking physical impression, although he doesn't have a pretty way of moving in the mornings. He did travel much smoother when opening up for his final work, one that may have been compromised by a little rider error since he went off much too fast before getting a little leg weary at the end. Not sure he'll handle the Pro-Ride as well as dirt.
Zenyatta: Only got to see her final work on tape from Hollywood, but it seemed to be a carbon copy of her final prep before her awesome performance in the 2008 Ladies' Classic. Loves the course but is facing far and away the toughest assignment of her life against males.
Twice Over: Has trained very aggressively over the Pro-Ride since his arrival in the United States. Has made one of the more favorable impressions of all the Euro invaders.
Richard's Kid: Little keg of dynamite couldn't have turned in a more impressive-looking final drill, kicking home his final three-eighths in 35.05 without pressure before galloping out another eighth in 12.40. Horse for the course is a real threat with the proper pace setup.
Gio Ponti: Has limited experience over synthetic surfaces but did seem to handle the ground much better during his gallop on Thursday than the previous morning.
Einstein: He's given trainer Helen Pitts all she can handle in the morning and was really on his toes again Thursday. Certainly looks the part of the Classic winner from what I've seen this past week.
Girolamo: Gallops like a monster, and is another colt who couldn't be doing better. Final work a little disappointing as he was put under some fairly vigorous pressure to finish five furlongs in 59.28. Has too many questions to answer for my liking.
Rip Van Winkle: Euro kingpin may be the class of the field but is giving the impression he's just not comfortable since arriving earlier in the week. Has washed out badly each of his first two mornings on the track, despite the cool weather, and while he galloped along soundly enough on Thursday, he remained on his left lead throughout.
Regal Ransom: His final Classic work was a thing of beauty, and he figures on or with the lead from the outset, but not sure he classes up against this outstanding bunch.
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