01/24/2008 12:00AM

Curlin, Pyro get down to business


Only 28 horses posted timed workouts on a gray Thursday in New Orleans that went from wet to wetter as the morning passed. But one could hardly have asked for more star power.

Not just working, but working as a team, Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, and Pyro, a finalist for champion 2-year-old, got down, dirty, and much more serious than they had at any point so far this year. The pair hit the finish line together in a five-furlong breeze timed in 1:00.60, and were caught galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.80 by Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.

"They were together the whole way," said Blasi. "It was a visually impressive work."

It was also much more than either horse had done in previous timed workouts following a post-Breeders' Cup holiday. On Jan. 6, Curlin was credited with a slow half-mile breeze, while Pyro went a half-mile in a time too slow to make the official work tab. Both horses breezed a slow half-mile on Jan. 12, and on Jan. 18, Pyro went five furlongs in 1:03.80, Curlin the same distance in 1:04.

Asmussen had planned for something stronger Thursday, but had said earlier in the week he didn't intend to breeze the two horses together. That plan changed, however, as the scheduled work drew nearer.

"[Asmussen] pretty much just monitors how they train through the week," Blasi said. "They both looked and acted like they were ready to do something."

Curlin, with Carmen Rosas up, and Pyro, ridden by Dominic Terry, worked before the track condition was downgraded from good to sloppy. Blasi said their opening furlong was timed in 13 seconds, and that both horses worked without being asked for run.

"I stayed back at the barn to watch them cool out, and they both were really content with the way it happened," said Blasi.

The Fair Grounds racetrack seemed, if anything, slightly slow Thursday morning, and the positive breeze was just what Pyro needed if he is to make the Feb. 9 Risen Star Stakes for his 3-year-old debut.

"We'll see how he comes out of it," Blasi said of Pyro's Risen Star status. "Those decisions are made by the boss, but I like where we're at with him right now."

Plans for Curlin's 2008 debut still haven't been finalized. Asmussen said earlier this week that he would soon confer with majority owner Jess Jackson and decide when and where Curlin will race.

Stidham mulling stakes options

Trainer Mike Stidham had a busy Thursday morning of his own, sending several horses out to work, among them the promising 3-year-old fillies Tizaqueena and Sweetness N Light, and the 3-year-old colt Texas Fever. All three went a half-mile, with Texas Fever (49.20 seconds) and Tizaqueena (49.60) working as a team.

Stidham said "the options are still open" for both Tizaqueena and Texas Fever, but Texas Fever could ship to Turfway Park for the Battaglia Stakes on Feb. 2. Texas Fever finished sixth in the Jan. 12 Lecomte Stakes in his 3-year-old and dirt debut, but won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile over Turfway's Polytrack surface last fall.

Tizaqueena, who finished second as the favorite in the Jan. 12 Tiffany Lass, could start next in the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds, or the Martha Washington at Oaklawn Park.

Sweetness N Light, a sharp maiden winner at Keeneland, suffered a surprising defeat in an entry-level allowance race earlier in the Fair Grounds meet, but came out of the race with a bruised foot. Stidham said he planned to enter her in an upcoming turf allowance race.

Meche will miss about two weeks

Jockey Donnie Meche broke his left thumb in a spill on Monday and will be out about two weeks, according to trainer Rick Mocklin.

Meche, who has 18 wins at the meet, was injured when his mount, Mercantile, broke down catastrophically before the eighth pole. Mocklin said Meche walked away unscathed but for the broken thumb. The injury will require a cast, but Meche will be able to ride with the cast within a couple of weeks, Mocklin said.

Mercantile had been purchased for $2 million at a 2-year-olds in training auction in February 2006, but never panned out. He had been claimed for $10,000 early in the Fair Grounds meet by Dallas Keen, and had won an entry-level allowance race in his last start before he broke down.

* Shaun Bridgmohan will be in Florida to ride three Sunshine Millions races on Saturday, but will return to action at Fair Grounds on Sunday, said his agent, Doc Danner.