10/25/2010 6:04PM

Unrivaled Belle breezes on wet Churchill track

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With lights now a part of the equation at Churchill Downs, and the turf course open daily through next week, Monday morning’s training session is likely to be typical of what to expect here for the next 10 days, with Breeders’ Cup contenders working pretty much from the time the racetrack opened at 6 a.m. until finally closing for business around 10 a.m.

Light, intermittent showers, which began falling shortly after the main track opened on Monday, added some much-needed moisture to the surface, although not enough precipitation fell to warrant downgrading the track condition from fast. The turf course, however, was softened enough by the rain to be officially listed as good by the time the two Breeders’ Cup hopefuls entered the course at 9:30 a.m.

Unrivaled Belle (Ladies’ Classic, five furlongs in 1:00.60): Easily the most important name on the list of Breeders’ Cup hopefuls to turn in an official workout on Monday. With jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard, Unrivaled Belle was a little headstrong, which can usually be expected with her, as she galloped past the grandstand prior to the work. She was briefly picked up by the pony near the 6 1/2-furlong pole before finally being turned loose again about four lengths behind an unknown stablemate approaching the five-furlong pole. Unrivaled Belle rated in behind her target through an easy opening quarter-mile in 24.39 seconds before unleashing a quick move around the turn, covering her next eighth in an eye-catching 11.02 while readily overtaking her mate approaching the quarter pole. She then pulled away to finish nearly eight lengths in front at the wire while under little urging from Desormeaux before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.68.

Mine That Bird (Dirt Mile, five furlongs in 1:00.19): The 2009 Kentucky Derby winner was the first horse to work following the renovation break, breezing in company with stablemate Be Fair. The pair were on the muscle right from the start, sizzling through an opening three furlongs in 34.99. The pace took its toll on both horses down the stretch, Be Fair fading badly with Mine That Bird also appearing to tire slightly nearing the wire while under a bit of pressure to finish. He shut down quickly once completing the bullet drill, galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.20.

Thiskyhasnolimit (Dirt Mile, six furlongs in 1:12.65): Broke off approximately a half-length behind and outside stablemate Tone It Down and was not really asked at any time through splits of 24.52, 36.46, 48.52, and 1:00.07, edging away from his partner to hit the wire about two lengths in front before galloping out willingly into the turn. This colt’s internal split for the distance was a few ticks faster than Mine That Bird’s, and of the two Dirt Mile contenders to work this morning was easily the stronger looking at the end.

Riley Tucker (Sprint, five furlongs in 1:01.70): Came out in the set immediately after Thiskyhasnolimit shortly before 7 a.m., and was a little rank approaching the five-furlong pole, although he did settle nicely through a relatively slow opening furlong of 12.88. Continued at a fairly even pace into the stretch, although he did seem to tire a bit under mild pressure nearing the wire, completing his final eighth in 12.59 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.92. An uneventful yet uninspiring move from a horse I had hoped to see just a little more from considering his affinity for the local surface.

Delightful Mary (Juvenile Fillies, five furlongs in 59.91): Although she officially shared the five-furlong bullet with Mine That Bird, I had her faster by about .20 of a second, and was under less pressure in perhaps the most impressive work of the morning. Breezing in company and outside her male stablemate Blue Laser, Delightful Mary cruised along under Shaun Bridgmohan through splits of 11.78, 23.86, 35.91, and 47.41, then gradually edged clear coming to the wire without need of urging while completing her final quarter in 24. She extended her advantage to nearly four lengths by the time she completed a six-furlong gallop-out in 1:13.70. Handicappers might want to upgrade her chances in the Juvenile Fillies off this move.

Blue Laser (Juvenile, five furlongs in 1:00.44): Definitely came out second best alongside Delightful Mary despite racing nearest the rail and being put to late pressure by jockey Calvin Borel. He lost ground to the filly coming to the wire and even more while galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.58. Grade 3 winner was considered a longshot at best going into the Juvenile, perhaps even more so now.

Alcomo (Marathon, one mile in 1:43.80, according to track clockers): He had easily the most eventful drill of the morning, getting caught up among a trio of fast-moving gate workers while traveling easily past the wire in what appeared to be the beginning of an easy one-mile work.
Central City (Turf Sprint, four furlongs in 48, according to track clockers): Only saw the very tail end of a work that started out fast but ended with a 12.30 final furlong and a slow gallop-out of 1:02.60 for five-eighths.

Silent Joy (Juvenile Fillies Turf, five furlongs in 1:04.16 on the turf): The final time was immaterial since the ground had some give to it and the dogs were out quite a ways on the course, but she did tire noticeably through the stretch, losing a lot of momentum when switching back on to her left lead just inside the sixteenth pole.

Keertana (Filly and Mare Turf, five furlongs in 1:04.01 on the turf): Although her final time was quite similar to Silent Joy’s, she was the more impressive of the pair considering the way she surged home through a final quarter-mile in :23.13 seconds and galloped out strongly into the turn after breezing along at a slow pace (40.81) for her opening half-mile.

Belmont Park

Trainer Jimmy Toner glanced at his stopwatch after Winter Memories had concluded a five-furlong workout over Belmont Park’s inner turf course Monday morning and was shocked at what it read: 58.50 seconds. Admitting that he can be a little quick on the trigger finger, Toner figured to hear a slower time when he called the official track clockers.

He was right. Kind of. Officially, Winter Memories went five furlongs in 58.57 seconds in a work that looked every bit as impressive visually as the time would indicate and which only confirmed her status as the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
With regular rider Jose Lezcano in the irons, Winter Memories was just galloping into her breeze and went off in a relatively easy 12.47 seconds, while in the three-path. On this day, there were no traffic cones on the course to force the horses to work well off the hedge.

Without Lezcano doing much with his hands, Winter Memories threw in a middle quarter of 23.71 seconds for a three-furlong time of 36.18 seconds. Turning for home, Winter Memories lengthened her stride, reaching out beautifully through a final quarter in 22.39 seconds. Lezcano then took her in hand, as there was no need for a strong gallop-out.

“She went off nice and comfortable and Lezcano said she started to slow down along the backside, so he smooched to her and she took off,” Toner said. “She got a good blow out of it; I told him to go a minute.”

On a gorgeous, sunny fall morning, the work was done over an inner turf course that officially was called firm, but probably on the good side of firm.

Toner said he was grateful to the New York Racing Association for allowing him to work on Monday – turf works are usually done on Sunday – because it keeps the filly on her regular schedule.

“We’ve been on a weekly schedule with her and now that we did this today, I don’t have to worry about doing it again,” said Toner, who will ship Winter Memories to Louisville on Sunday. “This is her work for the race.”

Toner said the work was reminiscent of a fast breeze put in by Memories of Silver – the multiple Grade 1-winning mare he trained and the dam of Winter Memories – in 1996 three days prior to her winning the then-ungraded Lake George Stakes by three lengths at Saratoga.

Winter Memories will likely go off favored in the Juvenile Fillies Turf off her victory in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 3 and a maiden win at Saratoga on Sept. 3.

– David Grening