09/24/2003 12:00AM

Cuvee, Asmussen's first BC starter, may be his first BC winner, too


Trainer Steve Asmussen has never run a horse in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. He is expected to make quite a debut when he runs Cuvee in the $1.5 million Juvenile on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

Cuvee established himself as the favorite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with his 8 1/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 14. It was his fourth victory - and third graded-stakes win - from five career starts. The lack of a two-turn prep going into the Juvenile is of little consequence to Asmussen, who knows he has a good horse.

"It'll take a tremendous amount of horse to beat him," Asmussen said. "It isn't a question of whether he's good. He'll run a great mile and a sixteenth. Is there anyone out there that will run a little better? I don't know, but I love where we're at."

Asmussen will stick with his plan to train Cuvee up to the Juvenile, forgoing another prep.

"The spacing of his races was planned," Asmussen said. "He doesn't need seasoning. He was an unbelievable professional the first time he ran."

The last major preps for the Juvenile will be held next weekend, with the Champagne at Belmont and Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 4, and the Norfolk at Santa Anita and the Grey Breeders' Cup at Woodbine on Oct. 5.

The Champagne is expected to feature Hopeful winner Silver Wagon, but that horse is not expected to run in the Juvenile. Others pointing to the Champagne are Birdstone, Chapel Royal, and Read the Footnotes. Trainer Bob Baffert is considering sending Cooperation to New York.

Trainer Todd Pletcher is considering the Lane's End or the Grey Breeders' Cup for Value Plus, who finished second to Cuvee in the Futurity. Among those pointing to the Breeders' Futurity are Eurosilver, Distressed Debt, and Consecrate.

Trainer Richard Mandella said this week that he may skip the Norfolk with Siphonizer and Minister Eric - the one-two finishers from the Del Mar Futurity - and train them up to the Juvenile. That would leave the Baffert-trained Odds On as a strong favorite for the Norfolk. Pomeroy, disqualified from first in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, will also run in the Norfolk with new rider Mike Smith.

The only stakes race of significance in the Juvenile division this weekend is the $150,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity, featuring Cactus Ridge. That colt is 3 for 3, including a 15-length victory in the Canterbury Juvenile and a 6 1/2-length score in the Ellis Park Juvenile.

"He didn't beat much over at Canterbury," trainer Bret Calhoun said. "He was expected to win, but he did more than just win. He won like a good horse - he won by 15, was pressed, tried, and never exerted himself. The same thing at Ellis; I thought he'd get hooked or get tested, but he never was even challenged."