10/17/2008 11:00PM

Turf: Winchester faces tougher, longer


Winchester was only a maiden race winner with a placing in a minor stakes in Ireland when he won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August. No wonder he was 7-1.

Winchester's 7 1/4-length win in the Secretariat redefined his career, and led owners Bert and Diana Firestone and trainer Dermot Weld to target Saturday's $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf.

The BC Turf will be a different assignment - a new distance against a tougher field. It is the distance issue that was foremost on Weld's mind on Saturday.

The Turf is run over 1 1/2 miles, and Winchester has not won beyond 1 1/4 miles, the distance of the Secretariat and a maiden race he ran in at Leopardstown, Ireland, in April.

"His best form is over 10 furlongs," Weld said.

In two starts over 1 1/2 miles on turf in Europe, Winchester was eighth in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and seventh in the Irish Derby.

Despite that, Weld admits that Winchester ran like a horse capable of handling 1 1/2 miles in the Secretariat. After stalking the pace for the first mile, he kicked clear through the stretch.

"His performance in Chicago was pretty good," Weld said.

Saturday in Ireland, Winchester worked six furlongs on turf. "I'm very pleased with the way he went," Weld said. "I worked him out of stalls the other day to sharpen him. I want to have my horse right."

Winchester is one of 12 probable starters in the Turf. Saturday, trainer Julio Canani said that Spring House, the winner of two graded stakes on turf in California this year, will start in the BC Turf. Spring House was also pre-entered for the BC Dirt Marathon.