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Yankee Gentleman gets to work
ARCADIA, Calif. - Whatever questions lingered over Yankee Gentleman after an aborted workout last week were lifted on Monday, when the colt regarded by many as the West's best sprinter turned in a sensational workout for Sunday's Grade 1, $200,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.
Yankee Gentleman, working in company, finished powerfully without being asked by jockey Julie Krone to cover five furlongs in 58 seconds, equaling the fastest time of the morning at the distance.
"That's what I expected last week," said his trainer, John Shirreffs.
Last week, Krone pulled up Yankee Gentleman at the quarter pole after a half-mile of a scheduled six-furlong work. "When I first saw him pull up, I thought, 'Uh oh, how bad?' " Shirreffs said. "But by the time I got to Julie, she said he wasn't lame. She just couldn't understand why she had to smooch to him. She had never had to do that before."
Shirreffs said that Yankee Gentleman has been much more relaxed in his daily training since arriving at Santa Anita. He was more animated at Del Mar, and Shirreffs theorizes that his change in behavior concerned Krone. "The difference from last week to this is that Julie's more familiar with him now," Shirreffs said. "At Del Mar, he was very fresh. He'd buck and kick. Julie hadn't worked him since Del Mar until last week. He has settled down. He's not as bouncy."
Krone said Yankee Gentleman performed ideally on Monday.
"Every single furlong was perfect," she said. "He settled, went the first quarter in 24 seconds like we wanted, and every time I pinched him, he responded. He went like a rocket, and he galloped out perfectly."
Yankee Gentleman won twice at Del Mar, including the restricted Pirate's Bounty Stakes, after returning from a one-year layoff. Marty Wygod, who owns Yankee Gentleman with his wife, Pam, said Yankee Gentleman was taken out of training twice during that year because of ankle trouble.
The Ancient Title is a pivotal race for Yankee Gentleman, who needs graded stakes points to get into the Breeders' Cup Sprint here Oct. 25.
Two other Ancient Title prospects turned in swift five-furlong works on Monday morning. Bluesthestandard equaled Yankee Gentleman's morning-best time of 58 seconds, and Captain Squire was timed in 58.80 seconds.
Four Breeders' Cup preps over weekend
The Ancient Title is one of four Breeders' Cup prep races this weekend. Saturday features the Grade 2, $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap for older horses. The Ancient Title is joined Sunday by the Grade 2, $250,000 Norfolk Stakes for 2-year-olds and the Grade 2, $300,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile on turf.
Reba's Gold, who was scratched from Sunday's Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational at Fairplex to go in the Goodwood, worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Monday morning at Santa Anita. Others scheduled for the Goodwood include last year's winner, Pleasantly Perfect, and the 3-year-old Toccet, whose workout here on Saturday was obscured by heavy fog. Joey Franco, Grey Memo, Fleetstreet Dancer, and Taste of Paradise are also expected to run.
The Norfolk will feature Siphonizer, the winner of the Del Mar Futurity. His trainer, Richard Mandella, had been considering passing the Norfolk and heading straight into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. "He's a big, heavy colt. I think the more he runs, the better he'll get," Mandella said.
Others expected for the Norfolk include Capitano, Coldntight, Consecrate, Cooperation, Perfect Moon, Pomeroy, Rulers Court, and Odds On, who worked six furlongs from the gate in 1:11.80 on Monday. Pomeroy worked six furlongs on Sunday in 1:13.40.
Special Ring, who set a Del Mar course record for 1 1/8 miles on turf in the Eddie Read Handicap, heads the field for the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile. He worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on Sunday.
His rivals are expected to include Apache Wings, Designed for Luck, Green Line, Inesperado, Medecis, and Sarafan. Apache Wings worked five furlongs on turf in 1:00.40 on Monday. It was the best time of six at the distance. Medecis had the day's best six-furlong time, 1:11.60. Inesperado worked five furlongs at Hollywood Park and was timed in 1:02.
Top clockers decide to retire
California has been lauded as the nation's model for the reporting of workouts. One of the reasons California had such a deserved reputation was because of the integrity of Santa Anita's chief clocker, Chuck Russell, who retired on Sunday after working as a clocker for 34 years.
Russell's right-hand man, Charlie Obert, also decided to retire, as did Russell's younger brother, Dennis. They will be replaced, but it will be hard to find three clockers with as much skill, brilliance, and respect.
Russell, 61, said he decided to retire because he will be eligible for Social Security when he turns 62 in December. "I've been getting up at 2:30 every morning. I won't know what to do," he said. "I don't think I'll be able to sleep in for awhile. For me, sleeping in is 3 o'clock."
Russell said the best horse he ever saw was "probably Spectacular Bid," but he cited Point Given, Serena's Song, Terlingua, and hillside turf course specialist Baffle as other favorites.
Obert, 59, was a clocker for 30 years. "It doesn't seem like that long," he said.
Dennis Russell is 58, meaning all three could have continued to work for many more years. But when Chuck Russell said he was going to retire, his closest associates decided to leave, too.
The clockers were feted in a brief ceremony in the winner's circle after Sunday's first race.
- Scott Hansen, who left this circuit one year ago to train for Richard Englander at Fair Grounds and then Delaware Park, has returned to Southern California and will operate a public stable again. He was a long-time assistant to Julio Canani before going on his own.
- Senor Swinger, who is scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Oak Tree Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Monday morning for trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert also sent the 2-year-old filly Victory U. S. A. through a five-furlong drill, in 59.80 seconds. She is scheduled to go to Belmont Park for Saturday's Frizette Stakes.
- Medaglia d'Oro, who is awaiting the Breeders' Cup Classic, worked six furlongs in 1:15 on Sunday at Hollywood Park.
- additional reporting by Steve Andersen