09/29/2009 11:00PM

Extra distance will tell a big story


ARCADIA, Calif. - Two races into his career, John Scott, a 2-year-old trained by Carla Gaines, has developed a predictable style: Drop to the back of the field and roar through the stretch to win a sprint.

That's how he won a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 2 and a month later the six-furlong I'm Smokin Stakes for statebreds. Looking forward, those wins might as well be ancient history.

When John Scott makes his graded stakes debut in the Grade 1, $300,000, Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday, the Grade 1 race will be his toughest race - and will be run at the testing distance of 1 1/16 miles.

How John Scott fares in the Norfolk will define the rest of his campaign, and maybe his career. The stakes could not be higher. Owners John Harris and Scott Gross will learn on Sunday whether they have a candidate for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 7, or a colt better suited to sprints.

For a change, Gaines, a trainer who frets over the smallest details, has confidence that John Scott, who is by 1993 champion older male Bertrando, can handle the longer race.

"I think he'll come by it pretty naturally," Gaines said. "I think he's a natural distance horse."

The Norfolk and Oak Leaf have added significance this year with the Breeders' Cup being run on the same track in November. Last year, the Breeders' Cup was at Santa Anita as well, and the Norfolk and Oak Leaf proved to be productive preps. Midshipman, second in the Norfolk, won the BC Juvenile. Stardom Bound won the Oak Leaf and the BC Juvenile Fillies. Both were later named divisional champions.

Gaines' confidence in trying John Scott in longer races is shared by several other trainers with colts in the Norfolk, and 2-year-old fillies in Sunday's Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes over 1 1/16 miles. While a few of the probable starters have won one-mile maiden races, such as the promising colt Pulsion, and the exciting filly Pure Class, other juveniles, similar to John Scott, will be stretching out from sprints. Some will handle it, others will not.

Lookin at Lucky, the winner of the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, hasn't run beyond seven furlongs. Lookin at Lucky took the lead in the final furlong of the Futurity, giving trainer Bob Baffert hope that a longer assignment will not be an issue.

"Hopefully, they prove they're good enough and do not hit that imaginary wall turning for home," said Baffert, who trained Midshipman at 2. "You have an idea they might get it."

Trainer John Sadler watched Pure Class finish fifth in a sprint in her debut, but rebound to win a one-mile maiden race by five lengths on Sept. 7.

"She really benefited from the experience," he said of her first start.

His hopes for the Norfolk - Privilaged and Dave in Dixie - were both sharp winners of maiden races for sprinters at the end of Del Mar.

"I had a pretty good idea before they ran if they'd be two-turn horses," Sadler said.

Dave in Dixie rallied from eighth in a field of 10 to win a six-furlong maiden race by three lengths. Bring on the longer races, Sadler said.

"When I worked him at Del Mar, he worked like he could run all day," he said. "He won going short, and we didn't think he'd do that. We thought he'd be running at the end."

Pulsion was definitely running at the end of a one-mile maiden race on Sept. 5, seemingly finding his best stride in the final quarter-mile. He won by a length in his third start, after finishing sixth and second in two sprints.

"From the day we bought him, it was surprising that he was able to run early," trainer Patrick Biancone said. "We thought he'd be a horse for the fall. Sometimes good horses do things their own way."

Maybe Pulsion will be a horse for the fall, and the lucrative stakes at Santa Anita in coming days and weeks.