09/29/2011 2:23PM

Santa Anita: Drill faces next big test

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Drill will make his first start at 1 1/16 miles in the Norfolk.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The first major transition of Drill’s career occurred in consecutive starts during the summer at Del Mar, when the highly-promising 2-year-old beat maidens in August and then won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7.

“There is a lot of raw talent there,” trainer Bob Baffert said.

The next test occurs Saturday, when Drill makes his first start at 1 1/16 miles in the all-important $250,000 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita. The Grade 1 Norfolk is the West Coast’s leading prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, and as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race carries a fees-paid berth to that race for the winner.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

The Norfolk is a race that Baffert expects Drill to win, considering the way the colt has trained since the Del Mar Futurity, which was run over seven furlongs. “He’s moved forward,” Baffert said.

Baffert was particularly encouraged by Drill’s seven-furlong workout in 1:23.20 at Santa Anita last Sunday. “He had an awesome work the other day, pretty impressive,” Baffert said.

Owned by a partnership, Drill will be a heavy favorite in the Norfolk, which has drawn a field of six, including Creative Cause, who won the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar in August, and Ruler of Dubai, who won two stakes for state-bred sprinters at Del Mar.

Creative Cause finished third in the Del Mar Futurity as the 9-10 favorite, three-quarters of a length behind Majestic City. Creative Cause was promoted to second after Majestic City was ruled to have caused interference in the stretch.

Drill was a 4-1 chance in the Del Mar Futurity and won by a neck over Majestic City despite a bumping incident in the stretch. “He had a horrible trip and still pulled off the win,” Baffert said.

The Del Mar Futurity was Drill’s third start. He began his career with an eighth-place finish as an even-money favorite in a maiden race at Del Mar on July 30. Drill broke slowly that day and never recovered.

“At the beginning, he had some quirks but he had some gate problems,” Baffert said. “That’s why he ran so poorly the first time out. That’s over with.”

In his two wins, Drill stalked the pace. He could have an ideal journey in the Norfolk, tracking likely pacesetter Ruler of Dubai, who showed speed with his victories in the Graduation Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 3 and the I’m Smokin Stakes over six furlongs on Sept. 5. In the I’m Smokin, Ruler of Dubai drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

The magnitude of the jump in class from statebred stakes to a Grade 1 is not lost on trainer George Papaprodromou.

“We’ll give it a shot,” he said.

The race features one international shipper in Loukas, a maiden race winner in his second start at Ayr, Scotland, on Aug. 6. Now trained by Darrell Vienna for first-time owner Claire Barbes, Loukas has been in Southern California for two weeks.

Vienna is looking to Saturday’s race to learn more about Loukas’s ability. “I don’t know what he is,” he said. “He does everything right and is very composed.”

Norfolk Stakes Field

PP HORSE JOCKEY TRAINER

1

Super Candy H. Berrios
122 Lbs
M. Polanco

1

Loukas (IRE) P. Valenzuela
122 Lbs
D. Vienna

1

Ruler of Dubai M. Smith
122 Lbs
G. Papaprodromou

1

Creative Cause J. Rosario
122 Lbs
M. Harrington

1

Drill M. Garcia
122 Lbs
B. Baffert

1

Basmati J. Talamo
122 Lbs
D. O'Neill