11/05/2009 1:00AM

Stoute puts on a few final touches

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Michael Stoute's Breeders' Cup horses include Zacinto in the Mile and Spanish Moon in the Turf.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Michael Stoute was a man on the move Wednesday morning. Hardly fresh from an 11-hour London-to-Los Angeles flight that was two hours late in departing, Britain's most widely respected trainer was getting as much exercise as his horses at Santa Anita as he prepared Conduit and Spanish Moon for the Breeders' Cup Turf and Zacinto for the Mile.

The man was pulling like mad as he sped along the grandstand apron toward the finish line so he could hear the report of Ryan Moore, who had just completed a one-mile turf gallop aboard Conduit, the defending Turf champ. Stoute seemed pleased by what he heard, Conduit having lengthened nicely through the final three-sixteenths of the move.

A suggestion that he had used Conduit's fourth-place finish in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe off a 10-week layoff as a prep for the Turf brought a smile to his face.

"I'm not that arrogant!" he quipped, then trotted off to attend to a paddock walkthrough for Conduit and Zacinto, who had just completed a six-furlong gallop.

"Conduit is ready for this race," he said in response to a question of whether he had not been fully wound up for any of his previous four outings this year.

Then, Stoute was off again to supervise a gate work for Spanish Moon, the banned-from-Britain Turf candidate who has, primarily, his stablemate Conduit to beat Saturday.

Spanish Moon has refused to enter the gate, or stalls, as they are called in England, on at least two occasions. The British stewards summarily slapped him with a six-month suspension, resulting in a pair of group race victories in France.

"Spanish Moon had no problems loading in either of his starts in France," Stoute said, "and I am not anticipating any problems on Saturday."

The Turf's second favorite, Spanish Moon had no trouble loading Wednesday morning, either, so it looks like all systems go for Saturday.

Shortly before the Stoute trio was in action, the crowd was treated to the impressive sight of the Coolmore Cavalry cantering around the Pro-Ride surface in tandem. All nine of Aidan O'Brien's contingent were present - seven horses entered in Breeders' Cup races as well as Augustusthestrong, who runs in the Oak Tree Derby, and Totally Devoted, who runs in the Las Palmas.

O'Brien expressed confidence about the chances of Mastercraftsman in the Dirt Mile.

"The distance is right, and the ground is right," he said, observations that should hearten supporters of a horse who has been installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite for the Dirt Mile.

Mention of his exciting 2-year-old St Nicholas Abbey gave O'Brien pause. St Nicholas has been put away for the winter to await next year's European classics. O'Brien bowed his head as if pronunciation of the colt's name alone was awe-inspiring.

O'Brien normally tries his highest Epsom Derby hopes in Irish group races such as the Ballysax Stakes and the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial. That may not be the route he will take, however, with St Nicholas Abbey, whose four-length victory in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on Oct. 24 impressed observers.

"With most horses," he said, "you have to find out. . . . With St Nicholas Abbey, you already know."

That assessment should cast fear into the hearts of trainers who have Epsom Derby hopes at this early stage. The implication is that O'Brien will send St Nicholas Abbey directly to the one-mile 2000 Guineas and then follow the same route as this year's European champion, Sea the Stars, and go in the Epsom Derby.

"He does things so very easily," O'Brien said. Johnny Murtagh, he said, "just had to sit and wait on him, and when he asked him at the furlong pole, he found exactly what he was looking for."

In St Nicholas Abbey, O'Brien and Coolmore may have come up with something very special, even by their exacting standards.



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