02/18/2008 1:00AM

Pyro dodges disaster in workout


Almost halfway round the world, things were humming along smoothly for the sprawling Steve Asmussen stable on Monday, with Curlin safely and comfortably housed in the quarantine barn at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse after an uneventful trip from Louisiana to Dubai that began Friday morning. But Monday morning at Fair Grounds, the scene was much more chaotic, as Pyro had his first work since his explosive win in the Risen Star Stakes interrupted by a loose horse.

Pyro, out on the racetrack shortly before 6:30 with Asmussen's second set of horses, had completed about one furlong of a five-furlong work when a horse got loose in the homestretch, turned around, and came back the wrong way along the inside rail - in other words, heading straight for Pyro and exercise rider Dominic Terry.

"Dominic had to slow down and put him in the middle of the track, and proceed from there," Asmussen said. "The horse is smart, and he went about his business well, but those were very tense moments indeed."

Pyro wound up being credited with a five-furlong work in 1:05.60, but Asmussen had no intention of asking Pyro for much on this day, anyway.

"First work back, it's not going to keep you from winning, and he went on about his business super and galloped out really well," Asmussen said.

Z Fortune, who suffered his first career loss when he finished second to Pyro, came out with the third set of horses, and had the same kind of work - only without incident - going five furlongs in 1:03.40. Asmussen said Z Fortune is likely to make his next start in the Rebel Stakes on March 15 at Oaklawn.

"His spot's the Rebel, but I don't want to eliminate anything," said Asmussen, adding that Garrett Gomez was expected to ride Z Fortune back in his next start.

Meanwhile, Curlin arrived in Dubai on Sunday, and was walked around the quarantine barn Monday morning. Curlin can't go to the racetrack until an analysis of blood taken upon his arrival is complete. Curlin is expected to train on Wednesday, said Asmussen's assistant Scott Blasi, who is in Dubai with Curlin.

"He definitely knows he's here to do something," said Blasi.

Curlin will make his first start of the season on Feb. 28 in a 2,000 meter handicap race, in which he should be an overwhelming favorite. The race is a prep for the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 29.