With the Nov. 4-5 Breeders' Cup right around the corner, Churchill Downs is trying to preserve its seven-furlong turf course as best it can. After months of keeping horses off the course, workouts began Monday morning over a turf rated good by the clockers, and as horses breezed, squishing noises and divots could be plainly heard and seen.
Good thing the orange traffic cones, or dogs, were stationed about 30 feet out, keeping the more precious inner portion of the course emerald green and pristine. Following several days of rain last week, nine turf works were posted Monday, including four by Breeders' Cup hopefuls, led by Courageous Cat and Court Vision, two of the likely challengers to Goldikova and Gio Ponti in the $2 million BC Mile.
Courageous Cat, with retired jockey Larry Melancon riding, started about three lengths behind his Bill Mott-trained stablemate Clear Attempt before nearly pulling even at the wire, getting five furlongs in 1:02.60.
Court Vision, with Robby Albarado aboard, went solo for trainer Dale Romans, getting five furlongs in 1:02.80.
Also, Country Day (Turf Sprint) went five furlongs solo in a relatively swift 1:01.20 with jockey Jimmy Graham up, and Animal Spirits (Juvenile Turf) went a half-mile in 52.60 seconds with exercise rider Scotty LeLeux aboard for trainer Al Stall Jr.
"I was kind of surprised how wet the course was," Stall said. "It was really squishy. Every horse I saw coming down there, they were kicking up these big clods. Our horse skipped over it pretty well, I thought, so we're pleased."
Steve Margolis, trainer of Country Day, said he and Graham were "very happy" with the drill by Country Day.
"Jimmy said it was pretty soft, but that the horse handled it real well," Margolis said.
Asmussen's BC hopefuls work
Early Monday, Steve Asmussen was happy not only with the workouts posted by five of his BC hopefuls at Churchill, but also with the results of Game 4 of the World Series, which the Texas Rangers won 4-0 Sunday night to pull into a 2-2 tie in the best-of-7 series.
"My wife [Julie] has already sent me two texts this morning saying, 'I love the Rangers,' " Asmussen said. "We live less than a couple miles from the stadium in Arlington. We're huge fans. Huge."
When he wasn't thinking baseball, Asmussen was sending out the following for what figure to be their second-to-last breezes before the Breeders' Cup, all of them coming at five furlongs: My Miss Aurelia (Juvenile Fillies), 1:01.20; Seeker (Juvenile Sprint), 1:00.20 in company; Wilburn (Dirt Mile), 1:00.80; Sabre Cat (Juvenile), 1:01.20 in company; and Tapizar (Dirt Mile), 1:00.40.
Other Monday works from BC candidates over a fast main track came from Prospective Start (Juvenile Turf), five furlongs in 1:02; Optimizer (Juvenile or Juvenile Turf), five furlongs 1:01; Hamazing Destiny (Sprint), half-mile in 46.20; Northern Passion (Juvenile Fillies or Juvenile Fillies Turf), five furlongs in 1:02; and Switch, (Filly and Mare Sprint), five furlongs in 1:01.20.
Meanwhile, as of Monday morning, about 900 to 1,000 stalls were filled in the Churchill stable area, which holds about 1,400 horses, according to stall superintendent Mike Hargrave.
"We're going to have a lot of arrivals this coming weekend," Hargrave said. "I think we've got about 10 charter flights coming to town between Friday and Monday."
Among the notable arrivals here Monday was Uncle Mo, who came through the stable gate shortly before 10 a.m. Eastern following a flight from New York.