10/19/2003 11:00PM

Cuvee likely to be elusive 'target'


ARCADIA, Calif. - The Breeders' Cup Juvenile lost three more starters over the weekend, but many of the dozen who remain in the field put in their final workouts for the race over the weekend.

At Churchill Downs, Cuvee, whose price most likely got shorter with the news that the undefeated Cactus Ridge was out with a knee injury, went five furlongs in 59.20 seconds, equaling the fastest of 34 works at the distance. Trainer Steve Asmussen said he has been concentrating solely on his colt and not on the rest of the field, but he realizes his place in the race and wanted a sharp work on Monday.

"He needs to stay fast," Asmussen said. "We're looking at a large field. He's a forwardly placed horse. He is the target for them in the race and he needs to be ready for a good one."

Cuvee is 4 for 5 this year, with dominant wins in the Saratoga Special and Belmont Futurity, which came on Sept. 14. Cuvee has had six workouts since.

"I love where we're at," Asmussen said. "I certainly wouldn't be trading places with anybody. I certainly realize what a tough race we have Saturday, but I feel excellent how Cuvee is coming into the race."

The other two Juvenile pre-entrants to declare from the race were the Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Grand Reward and Old Deuteronomy. O'Brien simply felt neither was up to the task.

The lone European representative in this year's Juvenile will be the Dermot Weld-trained Relaxed Gesture, who has one win from three starts and who is coming off a neck loss in the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at The Curragh on Oct. 12.

"It's a bit ambitious, perhaps, but I would like to see how he handles the dirt, and the trip, with a view to maybe going to America next year," Weld told the Racing Post.

Consecrate needed to do something special in his final workout Monday at Santa Anita or else he was going to come out of the Juvenile as well. Consecrate gave trainer Bob Baffert reason to fill out the entry slip after putting in a strong five-furlong workout in 58.60 seconds. Consecrate, who finished fifth in the Norfolk last out, worked in company with a 3-year-old winner, Exceeding, and stayed with him every step under Patrick Valenzuela.

"That's the best he's ever worked," Baffert said. "He's finally getting it together. He was really green when he worked the other day. I wanted Pat to get to know him when he worked with that same horse the other day. We let him go in front of [Exceeding] and he switched leads like he was green. I closed the blinker up a little bit and I liked the way he worked."

Mambo Train, who now gets in the Juvenile with the defections, worked four furlongs in 49.20 seconds Monday morning under exercise rider Jenny Johnson. Trainer Marcelo Polanco has not confirmed a rider for Mambo Train, but Iggy Puglisi is one of the leading candidates. Puglisi was injured in a spill at Santa Anita last Friday, but was expected to be riding by the end of this week.

Trainer Richard Mandella said Monday that David Flores would ride Action This Day, a maiden winner here on opening day whom Mandella is extremely high on. Action This Day worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Sunday. Siphonizer, another Mandella Juvenile entrant, worked four furlongs in 47.60 seconds Monday under Julie Krone.

Race for Glory, who won the restricted Cavonnier Stakes here on Oct. 1, worked four furlongs in 48 seconds Sunday for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.