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Clocker: Student Council stands out
ARCADIA, Calif. - Curlin may have grabbed most of the attention, but his final workout for Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic was just one of many important preps that took place under cool and cloudy skies Monday morning at Santa Anita. The group included four other likely members of the Classic field.
With the best Breeders' Cup workouts turned in before daylight here on the two previous days, it leads one to at least theorize that the Pro-Ride surface may actually be faster before the sun rises and warms the surface. Three days is certainly not enough time to completely verify the notion, although it is interesting to note that some of the better workouts on Monday took place later in the morning. That was due, perhaps, to the fact that cloud cover obscured the sun until near the end of training hours with temperatures remaining pleasantly cool throughout the entire morning.
Workout of the day
Well Armed (four furlongs in 46.91 seconds): Any doubts as to the horse to beat in the Dirt Mile were erased early Monday morning after observing Well Armed just cruise through an eye-catching half-mile workout while seemingly covering the distance closer to 49 seconds than 47.
With regular rider Aaron Gryder aboard, Well Armed immediately settled into a fluid stride, covering his opening quarter-mile in 12.22 seconds. He then proceeded to reel off consecutive eighth-mile splits of 11.50, 11.59, and 11.60 while under no pressure, giving the appearance he was completely relaxed and doing little more than galloping the entire way. He even tossed in an additional 11.96 split during his gallop-out around to the seven-furlong pole, just for good measure, before continuing out strongly around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch.
Curlin (four furlongs in 50.06): Obviously, all eyes were on Curlin when the defending Classic champ walked out on the track at his usual time, shortly after daybreak, for his final Breeders' Cup prep. Anybody who expected the reigning Horse of the Year to do little more than lope through an easy half-mile work, as is his custom six days prior to his races, was surprised, however.
Curlin was well within himself and as usual on his best behavior throughout the maintenance drill, posting splits of 13.10, 24.83, and 37.44 before galloping out an easy five furlongs in 1:03.91. He continues to make a tremendous appearance and gives the impression he's adapted to and handling the Pro-Ride surface flawlessly. Have seen nothing over the past several mornings that would suggest he's not going to be at his best once again on Saturday.
Pyro (four furlongs in 51.17): The first of trainer Steve Asmussen's three Classic entrants to work, coming out shortly after 6:15 a.m. Because he was working under the cover of darkness, it was difficult to see exactly how hard-held Pyro might have been for all but the final furlong of his work, but not hard to tell he was moving along at a very slow pace. That notion was confirmed by his very casual splits of 13.60, 26.01, and 38.64 seconds. Finished with a little more interest, covering his final furlong in 12.53, but completely shut down once passing the wire, galloping out five-eighths in nearly 1:07. Ran poorly in his only previous start over an artificial surface in the Blue Grass and from this morning's work, one gets the feeling he might not be too fond of the Pro-Ride either.
Student Council (four furlongs in 48:18): Nobody has made any better appearance than Student Council since I arrived here last week, and he confirmed that notion during his final Breeders' Cup prep, which was in sharp contrast to those of stablemates Curlin and Pyro. Despite being hard-held leaving the pole, Student Council was full of run and ready to roll and his rider did a good job holding him through an opening quarter in 12.25. The pace quickened without urging around the turn and down the stretch with all going extremely well until Student Council ducked out suddenly immediately after crossing the finish line. He still managed to gallop out five-eighths in 1:01.62, and despite the little indiscretion looked just fine and on his toes returning to the barn.
Colonel John (four furlongs in 49.50): Jogged past the gap and through much of the stretch prior to beginning his work just a few yards in front of Curlin, and for a moment it appeared the two could actually wind up beginning their drills simultaneously. That might have been fun for railbirds but a potential disaster for both Classic contenders. Colonel John ultimately broke off first, leaving the pony right on top of the five-furlong pole after which he two-minute-licked to the half-mile marker to officially begin the work. From that point on, his breeze was pretty much a slightly faster carbon copy of Curlin's prep, an easy and well-controlled half-mile followed by a slightly faster gallop-out of 1:01.84. Not surprising, considering Colonel John is fresh off back- to-back bullet works earlier this month.
Champ Elysees (five furlongs in 59.56): An important morning for this turf specialist, who will not only be switching to the main track for only the second time in his career but will be wearing blinkers for the first time in the Classic. Working with the blinkers on, Champ Elysees breezed along at a crisp pace while never asked at any point, going his opening quarter in a controlled 24.35 before completing his final three-eighths in a very solid 35.21. Was given a couple of taps of encouragement just as he crossed the wire and again near the 7 1/2-furlong pole to gallop out six furlongs in 1:12.03. A very encouraging and quicker-than-expected move from a horse who does his best running from off the pace.
Midnight Lute (four furlongs in 47.16): After an explosive five-furlong work in 56 and change here last week, the defending Sprint champ didn't need to come back with anything too fast five days before the race and he obliged with a very handy half-mile work in which he relaxed beautifully and changed leads on cue both entering and leaving the stretch. Galloped out very strongly, five-eighths in 59.68, and appears none the worse for wear from the foot injury he suffered at Del Mar. Worked in a bar shoe on his left front and it is not certain at this point whether he will switch to a plain shoe on race day.
Black Seventeen (four furlongs in 48.16): Working in blinkers and in company with stablemate Kbello, Black Seventeen appeared to be under a bit of urging to keep pace with his mate. Both struggled a bit through a final furlong in 12.82. Did not gallop out particularly well either, pulling up five-eighths in 1:02.16. Leaves some doubt about whether he's as comfortable on Pro-Ride as over other artificial surfaces or dirt.
California Flag (three furlongs in 34.94): Took a good run to the three-eighths pole after leaving the pony in full stride and maintained a quick pace throughout, posting splits of 11.60 and 22.91 before galloping out a half-mile in 47.88. Fanned about four paths wide entering the stretch before angling back near the rail through the final furlong.
One Union (five furlongs in 1:01.62 on turf): Appeared very eager swinging around the turn and breaking away from the pole, then finished well enough, shading 12 for his final furlong before galloping out willingly around the bend.
Mine That Bird (five furlongs in 59.81): Final time was creditable but he was under pressure much of the way to keep pace with workmate Precious Union, who was easily the more impressive of the pair. Shut down a bit once passing the wire, galloping out six furlongs in just 1:14.28.
Coronet of a Baron (five furlongs in 1:03.04 on turf): Will be interested to see which race this colt's connections choose, the Juvenile or the Juvenile Turf, following Coronet of a Baron's first venture on grass. Broke off about four lengths behind stablemate African Diamond and passed his target after fanning well out leaving the turn, although he was under some pressure to keep his partner at bay nearing the wire. Expected something a little faster than 1:03 and change.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Saucey Evening (three furlongs in 36.72): Both the turf or dirt and blinker questions might have been answered for this filly after she displayed good speed while equipped with shades, zipping through a sharp three-furlong drill before galloping out very strongly into the turn.
Palacio de Amor (four furlongs in 46.84): One of the better and more eventful works of the morning. Had the misfortune to break off just behind a team of workers from Bobby Frankel's barn. Stalked the pair while well in hand through a 22.95 opening quarter, then was so full of run her rider was forced to swing three wide to get around that duo at the quarter pole. Finished up and galloped out willingly enough without undue urging, although not sure if what ended up a harder-than-planned drill might be in the filly's best interests a mere four days out from her race.
Elusive Bluff (five furlongs in 1:02.32): Jockey Michael Baze was forced to make a couple of adjustments in this drill, as midway around the far turn he caught up to a pair of workers who had broken off an eighth of a mile in front of him and were going slow. Baze directed Elusive Bluff three wide around that duo, and then at the quarter pole he had to go around a horse that was galloping. In the stretch, Elusive Bluff was in the five path, but still managed to get his final three furlongs in 37.37 seconds.
Baze, who had ridden Elusive Bluff on the turf at Belmont, said the horse handled the synthetic surface here "just as well.''
- David Grening
All times clocked by Daily Racing Form unless mentioned otherwise.