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Indian Blessing to sprint with the females
Trainer Bob Baffert all but put to rest any speculation that Indian Blessing might take on males in the Breeders' Cup Sprint shortly after the Eclipse Award winner worked five furlongs in 59.14 seconds at Santa Anita on Saturday in preparation for her role as the heavy favorite in Friday's Filly and Mare Sprint.
"I put her in the Sprint just in case there were any major defections, but I've got her in the right spot," Baffert said, referring to the Filly and Mare Sprint.
Indian Blessing, who clinched the 2-year-old filly championship with her easy victory at Monmouth Park in the 2007 Juvenile Fillies, brings a three-race win streak into this year's Breeders' Cup that includes impressive tallies in the Grade 1 Test and Prioress. The major question mark is how well she will handle Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface. Indian Blessing was all out to win the
Grade 2 Santa Ynez by a head in her only previous start here when making her 3-year-old debut in January.
"I thought she worked well this morning," said Baffert. "I've never really set her down here. She seems to be handling the track okay, but she prefers regular dirt. This type of track really takes away her brilliance."
Dirt Mile: O'Neill pair gets in
There were 14 horses pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, but a maximum of 12 can run in the race. Slew's Tiznow and Slew's Tizzy, full brothers trained by Doug O'Neill, initially ended up on the outside looking in. But the defection of Jonesboro, and the decision by
trainer Bobby Frankel to run First Defence and Mast Track in other races, has allowed both Slew's Tiznow and Slew's Tizzy to get in.
They both worked six furlongs on Saturday at Hollywood Park, with Slew's Tiznow going in 1:12.80, and Slew's Tizzy in 1:13.80.
"Slew's Tiznow worked great, and his big brother did, too," O'Neill said.
Slew's Tizzy also was pre-entered in the Turf Sprint, but he is at the bottom of an oversubscribed field of 19. Because he is unlikely to get into that race, which was the first choice of O'Neill and owner Joseph Lacombe, O'Neill said the Dirt Mile will suffice.
Slew's Tiznow, 3, comes off a three-length victory in the El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar, his lone start of the year. Slew's Tizzy, 4, won a money-allowance race at Oak Tree on
Another Mile contender, Albertus Maximus, worked five furlongs in 59.20 seconds on Saturday morning at Santa Anita for trainer Vladimir Cerin.- Jay Privman
Sprint: Midnight Lute has work done on foot
Although Indian Blessing is headed to the Filly and Mare Sprint, Bob Baffert will still have defending Sprint winner Midnight Lute in the race. Midnight Lute was the last horse to train over the main track, shortly after 10 a.m. on Saturday, following a visit from the blacksmith.
"We just redid the patch on the quarter crack he suffered at Del Mar," Baffert explained. "The blacksmith medicated it last night to soften the area before working on him this morning. The crack has grown out nicely, and he's doing well. He's in a very good frame of mind, which wasn't the case this summer at Del Mar."
Baffert said Midnight Lute would have an easy work at Santa Anita on Monday.- Mike Welsch
Filly and Mare Turf: Mott confident with Dynaforce
Dynaforce will play a prominent role in Friday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf. How long that lasts depends on whether she is comfortable near the front of the 1 1/4-mile turf race.
That style has led to a major stakes win this year for Dynaforce - the Grade 1 Flower Bowl Invitational - at Belmont Park on Sept. 27, and two second-place finishes in major stakes in New York during the summer.
"You've got to like what she's done," trainer Bill Mott said.
The only blemish in Dynaforce's campaign was a fifth-place finish in the Glen Falls Handicap at Saratoga on Sept. 1, a loss Mott threw out. "She did have a stinker at Saratoga, and I can't explain that," he said.
The win in the Flower Bowl, over a yielding course, is the most prestigious of Dynaforce's 11-race career. The BC Filly and Mare Turf will be her first start in the United States outside of New York. Owned by John Chandler, Dynaforce began her career in France, where she won 3 of 7 starts for trainer Andre Fabre.
Mott is convinced that Dynaforce is not reliant on yielding turf, mentioning her second in her U.S. debut on a firm course in the New York Stakes on firm turf on June 21 as evidence.
"We'll get different ground [in California], but she ran well on firm turf," Mott said. "I don't think it's a major issue. After the first race, we thought [the BC Filly and Mare Turf] was possible. I was impressed."- Steve Andersen
Juvenile: Terrain has solid work
At Keeneland, Terrain, runner-up in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity runner-up worked four furlongs in 48.20 seconds Saturday morning under exercise rider Alejandro Gonzalez. Terrain worked in company with the maiden winning 2-year-old Moral.
"Everything went fine. He galloped out in a minute and change, he was in the bridle all the way," trainer Al Stall said. "The rider said he never gave it up at any point in time, which is good."
Stall said the decision to run in the Juvenile was made after the likes of Vineyard Haven, Charitable Man, and Run Away and Hide all defected from the race. The Juvenile favorite figures to be Square Eddie, to whom Terrain ran second in the Futurity.
"He could go one direction or the other," Stall said of Square Eddie, whose Futurity effort was his first start in this country. "Our horse runs his race every time."
Terrain was scheduled to ship to Southern California on Wednesday.- David Grening
Juvenile Fillies: Sky Diva breezes
At the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, Frizette winner Sky Diva breezed six furlongs in 1:13 Saturday under exercise rider Holly Webster in preparation for a start in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies. She galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27.60, according to trainer Steve Klesaris.
Sky Diva, undefeated in two starts, figures to be the second choice in the Juvenile Fillies behind Stardom Bound.
"All I wanted her to do was stretch her legs around the racetrack, get some conditioning out of it," Klesaris said.
Though Sky Diva worked over the synthetic surface at Fair Hill, Klesaris said he still has some reservations about running her over the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita.
"My own take on it is synthetic is an artificial version of turf. That's my only concern," Klesaris said. "You can take a horse that will get beat 20 lengths on the grass in the afternoon and I can make them breeze five-eighths in a minute on the turf in the morning. You'll get very few horses that look like they don't like it."
Sky Diva is coming off a visually impressive 3 3/4-length victory in the Frizette in which she rallied from last and was hand-ridden to the wire.
"That performance was spectacular," Klesaris said. "It shows what kind of filly she is. What I really like about her is the further they run the more she's going to like it."
Sky Diva was scheduled to ship to Southern California on Tuesday.- David Grening
Turf: Winchester faces tougher, longer
Winchester was only a maiden race winner with a placing in a minor stakes in Ireland when he won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August. No wonder he was 7-1.
Winchester's 7 1/4-length win in the Secretariat redefined his career, and led owners Bert and Diana Firestone and trainer Dermot Weld to target Saturday's $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf.
The BC Turf will be a different assignment - a new distance against a tougher field. It is the distance issue that was foremost on Weld's mind on Saturday.
The Turf is run over 1 1/2 miles, and Winchester has not won beyond 1 1/4 miles, the distance of the Secretariat and a maiden race he ran in at Leopardstown, Ireland, in April.
"His best form is over 10 furlongs," Weld said.
In two starts over 1 1/2 miles on turf in Europe, Winchester was eighth in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and seventh in the Irish Derby.
Despite that, Weld admits that Winchester ran like a horse capable of handling 1 1/2 miles in the Secretariat. After stalking the pace for the first mile, he kicked clear through the stretch.
"His performance in Chicago was pretty good," Weld said.
Saturday in Ireland, Winchester worked six furlongs on turf. "I'm very pleased with the way he went," Weld said. "I worked him out of stalls the other day to sharpen him. I want to have my horse right."
Winchester is one of 12 probable starters in the Turf. Saturday, trainer Julio Canani said that Spring House, the winner of two graded stakes on turf in California this year, will start in the BC Turf. Spring House was also pre-entered for the BC Dirt Marathon.- Steve Andersen
Turf Sprint: Capuano ready for Cup debut
Trainer Dale Capuano will make his Southern California and Breeders' Cup debut when he saddles Heros Reward in the $1 million Turf Sprint. Capuano, 45, is based in Maryland and said he is looking forward to the change of scenery - however brief it may be.
"It's pretty exciting, but just like any other race you try to prepare for, you just get him ready," Capuano said. "Probably by Thursday you get keyed up a little bit. Being from Maryland we don't get to see that many nice horses except on Preakness day. It'll be nice to be around some high-quality horses."
Heros Reward fits that bill. A 6-year-old gelded son of Partner's Hero, Heros Reward has
10 wins, 7 seconds, and 2 thirds from 27 starts. He has banked $881,341. Capuano said Heros Reward thrives on firm turf - really firm.
"The last couple of times he's run it's been listed firm, but it's not been real hard," Capuano said. "From what I hear out there, it's been dry and it's been pretty firm. He'll really like that."
Though he's run 18 times on turf, the Turf Sprint will be his first start at 6 1/2 furlongs.
"It looks like those type of races go in about 1:12. That should be right up his alley," Capuano said. "It's awful quick time, but it should be to his liking."
On Saturday, at Laurel, Heros Reward worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 over the dirt course. Exercise rider Johnny Poe was aboard for the move.- David Grening