11/06/2010 10:39AM

Unhappy with the course, Stoute pulls Workforce out of BC Turf

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Michael Stoute scratched Workforce from the BC Turf Saturday morning due to concerns regarding the Churchill turf course.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When no rain fell at Churchill Downs this week – same as it’s been all fall here – the chance to see Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Workforce race in the Breeders’ Cup Turf evaporated. Many had speculated that the weeklong suggestions from the Workforce camp that the horse could be scratched were a ploy, but mid-morning Saturday the horse was declared out of the BC Turf by trainer Michael Stoute.

“There has been no rain and the ground is firmer than we would like for Workforce,” said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms. “We have absolutely no complaints, but the welfare of the horse is paramount. Prince Khalid has always been a great supporter of the Breeders’ Cup, and no one is more disappointed than he.”

A Racing Post story before Workforce shipped to Churchill last Saturday suggested that the Workforce camp was aware of the prolonged spell of dry weather here. On Thursday, Grimthorpe said that the pre-shipping forecast for Louisville showed several chances for rain, and it was assumed that there would be some precipitation before the Breeders’ Cup races. On Tuesday, Stoute’s assistant trainer sent the first warning signal out, saying the turf seemed too hard, and Stoute echoed the concerns when he made his first Churchill appearance Wednesday, walking the course with a rustic probe that he used to evaluate the turf condition.

Workforce’s people lobbied steadily for increased irrigation of the grass course, but Churchill track superintendent Butch Lehr has maintained all week that the turf is in the best shape possible given the drought conditions, and until Friday, Churchill held firm with their regular turf maintenance procedures, watering the track 10 minutes each night. Late Friday morning, however, more watering was done after training ended, and there was actually talk during the Friday BC races that the grass course seemed slick.

The turf was rated firm Friday, but after winning the Juvenile Fillies Turf, jockey Garrett Gomez said the grass course was “soft by [American] standards.” The winning time in the Filly and Mare Turf, race 9 on Friday, came in at 2:17.74 for 1 3/8 miles, slow compared to the last two editions of the race held at Churchill, where the winner clocked 2:14.55 and 2:13.07.

Midday, the 4-5 favorite owned by Abdullah, finished second in the Filly and Mare turf, however, and perhaps her surprising defeat – and sunny skies at dawn Saturday – spurred the scratch of one of Saturday’s main attractions.