02/05/2008 12:00AM

Curlin, Pyro look strong in separate works

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NEW ORLEANS - After working together in their last two breezes, Curlin and Pyro went their separate ways early Tuesday morning. As most of New Orleans got in a final hour or two of rest before the Mardi Gras celebration began, both Curlin and Pyro turned in spirited, but separate, drills at Fair Grounds.

Curlin and Pyro have been on the same schedule since Oct. 27, when Curlin won the Breeders' Cup Classic and Pyro finished a closing second in the BC Juvenile, but their courses now have diverged, with Pyro scheduled to start Saturday in the Risen Star Stakes, and Curlin headed to Dubai on Feb. 15.

Both horses breezed alone Tuesday, with Curlin coming out first, just after 6:30, and his work, in a word, was breathtaking. Curlin broke off at a good clip at the seven- eighths pole, went a strong pace down the backstretch, and finished powerfully, earning a seven-furlong clocking of 1:25.20. He was timed galloping out a mile in 1:38.60, while trainer Steve Asmussen caught Curlin going out nine furlongs in 1:52.80.

"I guess that's why they gave him the gold trophy," Asmussen said, referring to Curlin's Horse of the Year award.

Curlin will breeze again next Tuesday, Asmussen said, before flying to Dubai next Friday. He will have one five-furlong breeze over the Nad Al Sheba track before making his 2008 debut in a 2,000 meter handicap on Feb. 28. Asmussen only can hope Curlin's preparation for his 4-year-old debut continues going this smoothly.

"From 24 days ago and where he is today, it's amazing," said Asmussen.

As good as Curlin looked, Pyro may have been equally impressive - perhaps too much so, in Asmussen's opinion. Pyro, working almost a half-hour after Curlin, was timed in 1:00.80 for five furlongs, coming home his final furlong in 11.80 seconds.

"He did too much," Asmussen said flatly, an hour or so later.

It's not that Asmussen fears Pyro left his race on the track Tuesday, but that he will be too sharp going into the Risen Star, and may run too well in his first race of the year.

"We want him to relax his first time out, and he was a little more anxious than I wanted him to be today," Asmussen said.