10/27/2006 12:00AM

O'Neill sends out five in rain


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Doug O'Neill was praising Keeneland's new Polytrack surface on Friday morning after being able to work all five of his potential Breeders' Cup starters as scheduled despite showers that would likely have forced him to postpone the drills had he been stabled down the road at Churchill Downs.

The weather was wet, cold, and dreary when the first of O'Neill's five workers, Sharp Lisa, came onto the track at 7 a.m., and it wasn't much better by the time the star of the show, Lava Man, crossed the finish line shortly after 9 a.m. All five horses worked six furlongs and were put through their paces by exercise rider Tony Romero.


Lava Man (six furlongs in 1:15.56): Drew plenty of attention from railbirds as he warmed up and made his way past the grandstand and around the turn to begin what was obviously designed to be an easy maintenance work eight days prior to the Classic. He set the tone with an opening furlong in 14.22 seconds, after which Romero even reached down to take a little more hold. Lava Man settled into an easy stride, and after reaching the halfway mark of the work in a relatively slow 39.81 was given a glimpse of the stick and responded with a final three-eighths in a crisp 35.75 while cruising to the wire in hand and with his ears pricked. He galloped out extremely well before finally pulling up midway down the backstretch. Lava Man looks to be maintaining his terrific form entering the Classic.


Sharp Lisa (six furlongs in 1:19.11): Romero appeared to be a little extra cautious trying the wet Polytrack for the first time in the dark aboard Sharp Lisa, who pretty much loped through her opening half-mile in 55.21 seconds. She finally got down to business once entering the stretch, and despite changing leads a bit late leaving the three-sixteenths pole finished up well, covering her final quarter-mile in 23.90 without much urging before galloping out strongly around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch.


Thor's Echo (six furlongs in 1:14.15): Coming off a career-best 116 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade 1 Ancient Title, Thor's Echo came away at a quicker clip than most of the others, getting his opening quarter- and half-miles in 25:07 and 50.78. But he was also able to finish up willingly after fanning out about four wide leaving the turn, completing the final quarter-mile in 23.77 under some urging from Romero, who showed him the stick as they approached the wire. He galloped out in 1:27.14 after being forced to angle wide around another horse into the turn.

Areyoutalkintome (six furlongs in 1:16.93): He had to be urged along from the outset just to go an opening quarter in 26.75 and half in 53.32. He finished up well but under continued urging, with Romero showing him the stick both entering the stretch and nearing the wire. He galloped out seven-eighths in 1:30.59.


Great Hunter (six furlongs in 1:14.35): After having his work delayed while waiting for the outriders to corral a loose horse, Great Hunter turned in a sharp move over the same track on which he won the Breeders' Futurity three weeks earlier. He was relaxed breaking away from the pole, but wasted little time grabbing into the bit and actually went a swifter opening half-mile (50.26) and five-eighths (1:02.06) than the older BC Sprint contender Thor's Echo. He changed leads right on cue entering the stretch and was reaching out nicely while finishing up without need of urging before galloping out a solid seven-eighths in 1:27.01.

Among the Breeders' Cup runners seen galloping on Friday morning at Keeneland were Gorella, Asi Siempre, Lewis Michael, Film Maker, Badge of Silver, Round Pond, and Cacique.

Gorella did not appear to have the prettiest way of going over the wet track from what could be seen of her in the dark, but that can be expected from a turf specialist.

Film Maker and her stablemate Better Talk Now, thought to be training at Churchill Downs, are at Keeneland, with Film Maker looking particularly happy gliding over the Polytrack in the rain.

Southern California

Stormello completed his serious preparation for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with an easy half-mile breeze in 53.60 seconds Friday over the artificial Cushion Track surface at Hollywood Park.

"You can underscore breezing," trainer and co-owner Bill Currin said from his Hollywood Park barn. "Just a little blowout to get him on the airplane."

Stormello won the Norfolk Stakes in his first start around two turns, which gives Currin confidence that his homebred colt can win the Juvenile on Nov. 4.

Stormello was scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Sunday.

Currin wanted Stormello to go easily because one week earlier he had blazed six furlongs in 1:11.80, the best time of 15 at the distance.

o T.H. Approval, the winner of three graded stakes in Southern California this year, worked six furlongs in 1:13.40 on Friday at Santa Anita.

T.H. Approval is considered a longshot for the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Trainer Eduardo Inda timed T.H. Approval through a final quarter-mile in 24.40 seconds under exercise rider Mel Batyrkulov.

- additional reporting

by Steve Andersen

and Jay Privman