09/26/2007 12:00AM

Norfolk missing some top guns

EmailThe Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Sunday offers a $250,000 purse, the significance of a Grade 1 win to the victor, and, since it is four weeks before the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup at Monmouth Park, it is an ideal prep for the Grade 1, $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Yet the race, through a combination of tragedy and trainer choice, is void of the 2-year-olds who were considered the leaders on the West Coast.

The first six finishers in the Del Mar Futurity earlier this month were separated by two lengths, and it seemed certain that most of them would be back for the Norfolk. Yet only fifth-place finisher Dixie Chatter is among those expected to be entered on Thursday for the Norfolk. That presents a terrific opportunity for a late-developing runner to move into the spotlight, and trainer Dan Hendricks may have that horse in Beresford.

Beresford improved sharply in his finale at Del Mar. He romped against maidens going a mile when sent around two turns for the first time. The Norfolk, like the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is at 1 1/16 miles around two turns, which Hendricks believes will suit Beresford.

"He's bred to go all day," Hendricks said of Beresford, who is by Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold.

Hendricks won the Norfolk two years ago with Brother Derek, who came back to finish fourth in that year's Juvenile at Belmont Park, where the race is run around one turn.

Georgie Boy, who won the Del Mar Futurity, would have had to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup, so his connections have chosen to wait and race him against California-breds in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5. Drill Down, who was third, was euthanized after suffering an injury during a workout on Monday. Salute the Sarge, the Del Mar Futurity runner-up, is awaiting next week's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

Next week's other major race is the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, featuring pro-tem division leader Majestic Warrior.

The only other race of significance this week is the Grade 3, $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday at Turfway Park. Trainers Steve Asmussen (Poni Colada, T.J.'s Posse) and Todd Pletcher (Chitoz) have sent their second-stringers to that race, which drew a field of 10 when entries were taken Wednesday.