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Monday's BC workouts: Impressive drill from Warrior's Reward
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Monday was a brisk, bright, and very busy morning at Churchill Downs with 15 Breeders' Cup starters turning in workouts both over the main track and on a firm turf course. The temperature topped out at 44 when training began but was flirting with dipping into the 30s a couple of hours later, with a brisk north wind making it feel even colder. The lights that have illuminated the morning skies for the past two weeks (sunrise is still after 8 a.m.) were turned on full throttle for the first time this morning, replicating the conditions that will prevail for the Ladies' Classic on Friday and the Classic on Saturday, both of which will be run after sundown.
Work of the Day
Warrior's Reward (Sprint, four furlongs in 49.02): After not kicking on quite as strongly as I'd expected in his work six days earlier, Warrior's Reward certainly renewed my confidence with his work on Monday. He turned in the same type of move he displayed before posting a Beyer Speed Figure of 113 -- far and away his best -- when he won an allowance at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2009. With regular exercise rider Tracey Wilkes back aboard, Warrior's Reward was a handful just to get to the pole but settled in beautifully with an easy opening eighth-mile in 13.38 seconds. He then picked up the pace without need of urging through every succeeding furlong, completing his final quarter-mile in 23.41 before galloping out a strong five-eighths in 1:02.16. This work puts him right back at or near the top of my leading contender list for the Sprint.
CLOCKER ARCHIVE: Find Mike Welsch's previous Breeders' Cup clocker reports
Blame (Classic, four furlongs in 49.72 seconds): He was the marquee name on this morning's work tab, although I came out expecting to see little more than an easy maintenance move after watching his final major prep last Sunday at Keeneland. And with jockey Garrett Gomez aboard, Blame did just that, cruising through an easy half-mile in 49.72 while kept several paths off the rail and never asked at any point. He appears to be heading into the Classic at the top of his game.
Thiskyhasnolimit (Dirt Mile, four furlongs in 48.66 seconds) He turned in the quickest of the four half-mile works under the lights early this morning, impressing for the second straight week while giving the appearance of a horse who might just outrun his odds on Breeders' Cup Day. Like Blame, he was kept well off the inside rail wheeling out of the turn, and despite some relatively quick early splits over the loose and cuppy strip, finished up strong without need of urging by his rider.
Riley Tucker (Sprint, four furlongs in 49.51 seconds): He was very rank to begin his work, tossing his head several times coming to the pole, and continued to keep his head a little high around the turn before settling a bit once turning for home. He did not finish nearly as strong as fellow Sprint candidate Warrior's Reward, completing his final quarter-mile more than a full second slower in 24.60 seconds and not galloping out nearly as well, pulling up five-eighths in 1:03.77.
Informed Decision (Filly and Mare Sprint, four furlongs in 47.46 seconds): Easily the most impressive of the post-renovation works was turned in by the defending Filly and Mare Sprint champion, who gave every indication she will not relinquish her crown without a fight. Unlike the majority of the morning's Breeders' Cup workers, who were kept away from the rail over the cuppy racetrack, she hugged the fence throughout under jockey Julien Leparoux. She blazed home her all-important final quarter-mile in a sharp 23.30 seconds while given some encouragement near the furlong marker and again approaching the wire. She galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.29, faster than any horse worked the distance on this morning's tab.
J. B.'s Thunder (Juvenile, four furlongs in 49.80 seconds): A stablemate of Blame, he also was out for simply a maintenance work, although unlike Blame he worked after the renovation break and in company, alongside the older multiple winner Heritage Hall. J. B.'s Thunder was a little headstrong getting to the pole under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who eased him back about a length off his partner to begin the work. The pair joined up on the turn and went along on even terms through the stretch, with J. B.'s Thunder easily keeping pace with his older mate without need of encouragement.
Unrivaled Belle (Ladies' Classic, five furlongs in 1:03): She is trained by Bill Mott, and like his other two workers today, she galloped a mile and then took a brief breather before breaking off to begin her work. The final time was immaterial, since she loped through an opening quarter in 27 seconds under jockey Kent Desormeaux, who guided her about six paths wide leaving the turn before allowing her to complete the final three-eighths in a solid 36 seconds under no urging whatsoever. Like all of Mott's Breeders' Cup hopefuls, she's had a very good week.
Sweet August Moon (Filly and Mare Sprint, three furlongs in 35.58 seconds): She was pushed along some through the stretch and seemed to tire a bit near the end as she did during the later stages of a five-furlong drill here last week.
Acting Happy (Ladies' Classic, four furlongs in 49 seconds according to track clockers): Just your basic maintenance work.
Proviso (Mile, four furlongs in 52): She has made the best impression on a regular basis of any horse I have seen here over the past nine days, and while this morning's work wouldn't wow anybody, that was not the purpose. She did her usual thing by galloping a fairly energetic warm-up mile before breaking off to begin her work at the half-mile pole under Desormeaux. She covered her opening two furlongs in a leisurely 28.32 seconds and came home a second quarter in 23.68 before doing her best running in the gallop-out around the sweeping turn, completing five-eighths in 1:05 before double galloping out another sub-14-second furlong. She is facing a formidable task against Goldikova and perhaps Gio Ponti in the Mile, but she couldn't be doing any better coming into the race.
Al Khali (Turf, five furlongs in 1:01.51): The third of the Mott runners to work today, he made a great appearance with his long, fluid strides coming down the stretch. He cruised home his final two furlongs in 23.13 seconds while switching over to his left lead just inside the sixteenth pole, as several of the turf workers did this morning.
Sidney's Candy (Mile, five furlongs in 1:00.89): California invader was very aggressive leaving the pole and had to be given a left-handed tap of the whip to keep from lugging into the cones when he began to take a bit of an erratic path near the eighth pole. He finished and galloped out willingly enough under some late encouragement, but he just doesn't give the impression he's going to be able to carry his speed the distance against the quality group he will encounter in the Mile.
California Flag (Turf Sprint, three furlongs in 36.65 seconds): Like his stablemate Sweet August Moon, he was urged along through the stretch in a seemingly purposeful drill to have him on his toes when the gate opens on Friday. He just doesn't seem to be training as well as I remember he had before his win in the 2009 Turf Sprint.
Forever Together (Filly and Mare Turf, five furlongs in 1:00.86): The final time was respectable, but she was a little too aggressive away from the pole and did not gallop out as willingly as some of this morning's other turf workers.
Banned (Juvenile Turf, five furlongs in 1:02.62): Had a much less eventful trip than a week ago, when he inadvertently got hooked in with another worker during his drill. Cruised along at a relaxed pace during the early stages of his work and finished up in a respectable 23.31 seconds while given only some mild encouragement at the top of the stretch. I would have preferred to have seen just a little more during the gallop-out, but this certainly was an improvement over his breeze one week earlier.