10/28/2010 3:17PM

Lopresti looking strong with Here Comes Ben, Wise Dan

Tom Keyser
Here Comes Ben will be one of two Charles Lopresti-trained horses in the Breeders' Cup this year.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Charles Lopresti is excited about the prospect of participating in his first Breeders’ Cup, especially considering he’ll be represented by two horses with excellent chances to win their respective races – Here Comes Ben in the Dirt Mile and Wise Dan in the Sprint.

Here Comes Ben turned in his final major prep for the Dirt Mile when working four furlongs in 46.60 seconds at Keeneland under exercise rider Enrique Pacheo on Tuesday. The drill was the latest in a series of impressive drills for the 4-year-old son of Street Cry who has not started since capping off a four-race win streak by defeating fellow Breeders’ Cup runners Big Drama and Vineyard Haven in the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 4 at Saratoga.

“The track is admittedly very fast here right now,” Lopresti said at Keeneland. “But he did it very easily. I told my rider to just let him run from the eighth pole home, and he really exploded to the wire and galloped out strong. The best thing was that he wasn’t even blowing when he came back to the barn.”

Lopresti, 52, says he knows Here Comes Ben will have his work cut out in the Dirt Mile.

“It’s a deep field,” Lopresti said. “You’ve got to worry about [Richard] Mandella’s horse [Crown of Thorns], Vineyard Haven is very tough even though we’ve already beaten him in the Forego, and Gayego is a really nice horse. It’s going to be a pretty tough race.”

Lopresti said Wise Dan is training equally as well as Here Comes Ben for the Sprint. The lightly raced 3-year-old captured the Grade 3 Phoenix over the Polytrack at Keeneland in his first start since winning a first-level allowance race at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

“I’m pretty excited about him,” said the Brooklyn-born Lopresti. “He just does everything so easily. His last work was incredible for me to watch. He wasn’t even extended.”

Lopresti took out his trainer’s license in 1994 and currently has 16 horses in his barn.

“The last couple of years have been the best for me,” Lopresti said. “I have the best crew I’ve ever had right now.

“I’m kind of nervous about running in my first Breeders’ Cup, just like I was before the Forego, and the whole thing is kind of overwhelming for me. I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d have a horse in the Breeders’ Cup, and here I am with two, both of whom couldn’t be doing any better.”

Double Espresso works a half-mile

Double Espresso, among the pre-entrants for the Filly and Mare Sprint, worked an easy half-mile in 50.60 here early Thursday, although in all likelihood she’s going to wind up in the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. Double Espresso is coming off a victory in Remington Park’s Flashy Lady.

“We’re so far down the also-eligible list for the Filly and Mare Sprint I don’t think there’s much chance we’ll get in, so our backup plan is the Chilukki, which is a one-turn mile,” said Tom Amoss, who trains Double Espresso for the Gold Mark Farm LLC. “From the standpoint of the owners, they have another horse to run in the Breeders’Cup, so that’s good. I understand the rules, she hasn’t done enough to warrant a spot in this field, and I’m just glad there is some place to run her next weekend.”

Gold Mark Farm also owns Moontune Missy, who will compete in the Filly and Mare Sprint for trainer Eoin Harty.

Juveniles in opening-day spotlight

Sunday’s opening-day program at Churchill Downs will consist of 11 races, all for 2-year-olds, including the Grade 2 Pocahontas for fillies and the Grade 3 Iroquois for males. The co-features will both be run at one mile.

The $150,000 Pocahontas features the second start of Dancinginherdreams, an exciting maiden winner at first asking earlier this month at Keeneland for trainer John Ward. She’ll face a group that includes the stakes-placed Days Like This and recent allowance winner Honey Chile who posted the field’s best Beyer Speed Figure, a 92, when drawing off to a 6 1/2-length entry-level victory three weeks earlier.

Astrology, who had been under consideration for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, will instead top a linejp of just eight 2-year-old colts and geldings in the Iroquois. Astrology, who won his maiden this summer at Saratoga before finishing a disappointing third as the 6-5 favorite in Monmouth Park’s Garden State, could receive his stiffest competition from Maybesomaybenot and the Calder-based stakes winner Ribo Bobo.

Battle of Hastings trying Polytrack

The most accomplished turf specialist attempting to make the crossover to Polytrack in the closing-day feature at Keeneland, the Grade 2 Fayette Stakes, is Battle of Hastings, a multiple stakes winner with earnings of $1,277,340, easily tops in the field.

Greg Fox assumed the training of Battle of Hastings after owner Michael House shipped the gelding out of California this summer to have his health evaluated.

“We looked him over real good and gave him a clean bill of health,” said Fox, a longtime equine veterinarian. “I like the way he’s trained toward this.”

Fox had considered the River City Handicap on the Churchill turf on Thursday as an alternate comeback spot for Battle of Hastings but said the 4-year-old gelding “acts like he likes the Poly, so we’ll give it a shot.”

The other turf-savvy runners in the Fayette will be long prices but seem capable of a surprise. Boots Ahead, a run-off winner of the 2009 Restoration on the Monmouth turf, won a recent turf allowance here with authority, while Cherokee Artist earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in a three-back victory over the Belmont turf.

Kleins looking to spring BC upset

Richard Klein and his family have ranked among the leading owners for years on the Kentucky circuit, so it would be a great source of pride for them to win a Breeders’ Cup event at Churchill. Klein, in tandem with his parents, Bert and Elaine, will be represented in the BC Sprint by Cash Refund and the BC Turf Sprint with Due Date. Both will be longshots.

Richard Klein seems particularly optimistic about the chances of Cash Refund, a homebed 4-year-old gelding returning from a layoff of more than four months.

“They say a fresh horse is a dangerous horse, so we’re hoping he’ll fire big,” he said. “He came out of his last race a little sore, but we’ve got him back doing fine now, and he likes this track.”

John Velazquez has the mount on Cash Refund.

Churchill takes the center stage

Working on the assumption that the two marquee events in North American racing are the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup, there will be a span of three years – at least – before anyone goes anywhere but to Louisville to attend the top events.

Following the 2009 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, the Derby will have been run here three times and the Breeders’ Cup twice before a major event is held elsewhere – and that’s assuming the 2012 Breeders’ Cup, which has yet to be assigned, will be held at Belmont Park, as has been widely speculated, or at a venue other than Churchill.

◗ As of Thursday morning, less than a third of the 184 pre-entered Breeders’ Cup horses were stabled at Churchill, although obviously that will change quickly over the next few days as planes and vans begin converging on Louisville. A total of 59 BC horses, including two at nearby Trackside, were here Thursday.

◗ Keeneland has announced that the world-famous Boston Pops orchestra will perform at Rupp Arena in Lexington on Oct. 11, 2011, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the track’s founding. The event is being sponsored by Keeneland, the University of Kentucky, and the Maker’s Mark distillery.

– additional reporting by Marty McGee