10/31/2006 12:00AM

War Front appropriate streak-buster


There would be a touch of irony if Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens's Breeders' Cup frustrations were ended Saturday by War Front, a horse who has been through a successful albeit frustrating year of his own.

Jerkens has yet to win a Breeders' Cup race in nine tries. He came closest last year when Society Selection finished second at Belmont Park in the Distaff. Jerkens has had nothing but bad luck when shipping out of town for the Breeders' Cup, having yet to hit the board in seven tries on the road.

War Front has registered only a single victory in 2006, winning the Grade 2 Vanderbilt BC at Saratoga, while finishing second in each of his five other starts. Several of those races have resulted in close calls, including a couple of tough losses to start the year in Florida.

"The race that was most annoying was the second one at Gulfstream when he went head and head for the lead from a dead rail and got beat by a longshot who came from off the pace," said Jerkens, referring to War Front's one-length setback at the hands of the 50-1 Universal Form in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister. "Before that he got into trouble when he was just beaten by Gaff in the Mr. Prospector."

War Front also dropped a tough neck decision to defending BC Sprint champ Silver Train after contesting all the pace in the Grade 2 Tom Fool. In his two most recent starts, the 4-year-old War Front finished second in the Grade 1 Forego and Grade 1 Vosburgh.

"So far he's been very good but just hasn't been very lucky," said Jerkens.

Jerkens made sure War Front will be on his toes Saturday when he sent him out to drill a half-mile in 45.02 seconds at Belmont Park on Tuesday.

"I wanted him to go fast, although I didn't think he'd go that fast," said Jerkens. "But he's done that before and run well. Besides, I thought he might have gotten a little heavier during the fall, and by rolling along today it ought to put him right back where we want him."

Jerkens said he is not likely to attend this year's Breeders' Cup.

"I haven't been feeling too well lately so I doubt I'll make the trip," said Jerkens.

Jerkens's assistant Fernando Abreu will accompany War Front to Churchill Downs and saddle him in the Sprint.

"I've been to plenty of Breeders' Cups so it's not a big deal," said Jerkens. "And if I finally won one and wasn't actually there? That would be just fine with me."

- Mike Welsch

Dubai Escapade out of Sprint

Dubai Escapade on Tuesday was withdrawn from consideration for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint and likely will be retired, trainer Eoin Harty said.

Dubai Escapade worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Monday morning, the best time of 40 at the distance, but she slowed considerably at the end of the work and galloped out poorly. Harty said he spoke with Sheikh Mohammed, whose Darley Stable owns Dubai Escapade, and the decision was made not to press on.

"I felt that she wasn't 100 percent," Harty said Tuesday afternoon. "She's had some small, niggling issues. You have to be 110 percent to run in a race like this, and I didn't feel that she was. Sheikh Mohammed listened to what I said, and his response was instantaneous - don't run. If she's not 100 percent, we don't want to jeopardize her."

A 4-year-old filly, Dubai Escapade won 6 of 8 starts, including the Grade 1 Ballerina Breeders' Cup at Saratoga on Aug. 27, which turned out to be her last start.

Dubai Escapade, a daughter of Awesome Again, was a $2 million purchase as a 2-year-old in training at Barretts in March 2004. After winning once in two starts in Britain and Dubai, Dubai Escapade came to the United States late last year and was turned over to Harty, for whom she won 5 of 6 starts.

Her defection from the Sprint allows Lewis Michael to get into the race. Monday, Commentator was withdrawn, which put Areyoutalkintome in the field.

- Jay Privman

Euros get first feel of Churchill

The European invasion began at Churchill Downs about 7:30 on Tuesday morning, the 14 horses that shipped in Sunday clear of USDA quarantine restrictions with permission to train among the general population. Accustomed to bucolic training centers in England and France, the Euros are housed in a tight corner of the Churchill backstretch cordoned off by a temporary chain-link fence. The horse traffic alone is far more furious than they're used to, saying nothing about the throngs of writers, photographers, and various millers-about lining the paths to the racetrack.

Two horses here for the Filly and Mare Turf showcased the range of equine response to new situations. The 3-year-old Satwa Queen has stayed for all but a couple months of her career in her native France, and if she seemed slightly gawky going from barn to racetrack, the bustle out on the racetrack sort of blew her mind. Her rider attempted to jog her the "wrong way," clockwise, starting on the far end of the clubhouse turn, but about 50 yards later, Satwa Queen wheeled, reared up, and refused to go. Her groom, looking on from the racetrack's edge, caught the rider's eye, motioning to give up the fight and let Satwa Queen jog the direction she pleased. That worked, and all seemed fine thereafter.

Just before Satwa Queen went out, the real queen of the Filly and Mare Turf made her first appearance. Yes, Ouija Board carries herself like royalty. A world traveler, she came calmly out of her stall and never turned a hair during a visit to the paddock and an easy canter, even though her itinerary was interrupted by a breakdown that briefly closed the track for training. Ouija Board, looking robust and happy, was taking everything in, but none of it bothered her. Been there, done that, she seemed to say.

"She has seen it all before," said Robin Trevor-Jones, a so-called traveling lad who has accompanied Ouija Board on her various junkets.

Ouija Board figures to be the favorite in what's projected as a 10-horse Filly and Mare Turf field. The only major activity of the morning was a work by longshot My Typhoon at Keeneland. Wait a While, another major player, was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday along with her stablemate Honey Ryder.

- Marcus Hersh

Harris relishes Bernardini's last work

Exercise rider Simon Harris knows that Tuesday morning could very well have been the last time he gets to sit on Bernardini. Though nothing has been made official, it is believed that Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum will retire Bernardini following Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic.

Harris has been Bernardini's regular work rider since the spring. On Tuesday, Harris guided the Classic favorite through a five-furlong move timed by Daily Racing Form in 1:03.32 over Belmont Park's main track. He got his final quarter in 24.81 seconds without being asked for run.

"I'll never get on one like him again,'' Harris said. "He's the complete package. He does everything that you want him to do. He'll stand, he looks around, he'll jog, he gallops easy to the pole, and then he's push-button. He's so responsive to what you want to do and that's rare to find.''

Oddly, Harris said Bernardini gave him a little bit of a tough time early in the work. Bernardini was so sharp that Harris said he had to split his reins and take a new hold of Bernardini to make sure he didn't break off too fast.

"He's just so full of himself, he's just that sharp right now,'' Harris said. "I had a cross but to make sure I didn't go off too quick I had to split and take a fresh hold. Once I got to the half-mile pole he settled into it and it was easy sailing from then on.''

Harris, as he usually does, gave Bernardini a few affectionate pats on his neck once the work was complete.

"He's never been doing better than he is now, he's ready,'' Harris said.

Harris who works as a valet in the jockeys' room at New York Racing Association tracks, said he will be at Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup. - David Grening

Cauthen has rooting interest

Steve Cauthen is the last jockey to win the Triple Crown, aboard Affirmed in 1978. Since retiring from a Hall of Fame career, he has worked as an executive for Turfway Park, which is near his home in northern Kentucky, and has bred horses.

One of the horses Cauthen bred in partnership is Pegasus Wind, who most recently finished third in the Champagne Stakes and will run in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Pegasus Wind, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, is out of the Meadowlake mare Ride the Wind, whom Cauthen - doing business as Dreamfields Inc. - owns with Mark Simendinger. Pegasus Wind was sold as a yearling for $300,000.

"It's amazing for a small farm like ours to have a horse in a race like this," Cauthen said. "The mare was the second mare we bought when we started our breeding operation. We bred this horse on a foal share with Coolmore." - Jay Privman

Asi Siempre has final work

Asi Siempre, the Spinster winner, worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds over Keeneland's Polytrack on Wednesday morning in her final tuneup for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Asi Siempre worked in company with a stablemate, starting about two lengths behind that horse and finished about a half-length in front at the wire under a hold from jockey Julien Leparoux.

Asi Siempre has yet to run over a conventional dirt surface. Trainer Patrick Biancone said he didn't see the need to work her over Churchill's dirt surface.

"It means nothing because on race day, especially in the Breeders' Cup, everybody knows the track is going to be completely different," Biancone said. "The track you train on is not the track you race on."

- David Grening