ARCADIA, Calif. -- With a week to go to until pre-entries are taken for the Breeders' Cup, and two weeks until final entries are due, Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Curlin, reiterated on Monday that he and majority owner Jess Jackson are going to wait as long as possible to decide whether to run in the $5 million Classic Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.
"One step at a time," Asmussen said after Curlin worked a slow half-mile in 52.80 seconds on Monday morning at Santa Anita. "We want to show Curlin the patience I think he deserves. I'll discuss with Mr. Jackson everything we're seeing and everything Curlin is communicating to us."
Asmussen added, "Telling him he needs to like it isn't going to happen. We're going to listen to him."
Curlin, the 2007 Horse of the Year, has never raced on a synthetic surface, so the way he trains and works over Santa Anita's new Pro-Ride surface is paramount. His work on Monday was the first of what would be three workouts here if he were to run in the Classic. Curlin won last year's Classic at Monmouth Park.
Monday's drill was Curlin's first since his victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park nine days earlier. Curlin typically works a slow half-mile his first work following a race. Asmussen said Curlin would work again the next two Mondays. Next week's work will be in company, Asmussen said. It will come just one day before pre-entries must be submitted. They will be officially announced two days later, Oct. 16.
"I think we'll get a better indication next week," said Barbara Banke, Jackson's wife, who attended the work along with John Moynihan, the bloodstock agent who bought Curlin for a partnership following his maiden win in February 2007. "This was just a maintenance work."
It was a popular work, though. Dozens of fans were at Clocker's Corner to see Curlin, as were the two major racing news channels, HRTV and TVG.
Carlos Rosas, Curlin's exercise rider, was aboard for the drill. Curlin worked at 6:45 a.m., just after daylight. He went off slowly and remained under a snug hold from Rosas while gazing into the infield as he came through the stretch. Clockers termed the work breezing, a designation given out stingily in Southern California. Curlin's time was the 30th best of 31 at the distance on Monday.
Asmussen has raced on synthetic surfaces at several tracks in North America, but not yet on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita. He said comparing the different surfaces is impossible.
"One synthetic track does not relate to another. They're different from the morning to the afternoon, let alone track to track," he said. "It doesn't matter if I like it. I only care if Curlin likes it."
Asmussen added, "We've raced and trained on five synthetic tracks - Arlington, Keeneland, Presque Isle, Woodbine, and Turfway - and they're all different.
"We want to put all variables in play. We brought him out here right after the Jockey Club Gold Cup to give him every opportunity to see what he thinks of it.
"We accept our responsibility as his caretaker, and we take it very seriously."
Asmussen also worked Student Council here on Monday. He was timed in 1:15.60 for six furlongs, also under a firm hold from Rosas, though clockers did not term his move breezing. The time was the slowest of 10 at the distance. Student Council, owned by Ro Parra, is also being prepared for the Classic, which would be his first race in two months.
"I thought he went really well. It was a nice move for him," Asmussen said. "You need to do a little bit more with him. He's a great big horse, and he hasn't run in a while. I think he's sitting on a huge race."
Student Council traveled with Curlin to California last week.
"I wanted to give them time to get acclimated out here. Last time we ran here in the Breeders' Cup," Asmussen said, referring 2003, "there were forest fires, and it was extremely hot. My horses were knocked out before they walked over."
Asmussen said Zanjero, who won the Kentucky Cup Classic last month at Turfway Park, had come out of that race with a minor injury and would not race again this year.
"He needs a little rest," Asmussen said. "He had a pre-condylar in his right front. No surgery. Just rest."