ARCADIA, Calif. -- The gang's all here. Everybody entered for this year's Breeders' Cup is on the grounds and, not surprisingly, action was hot and heavy over all three courses, including the training track, on Thursday morning.
Among the most notable developments during the busy session was Smooth Air's unexpectedly fast tour of the oval and some blistering blowouts, including a sizzling three furlongs by Zaftig who'll compete in Friday's Filly and Mare Sprint.
Smooth Air (Classic) was scheduled to simply two-minute lick but dropped down near the rail after already jogging one mile and went around again in 1:48.85, while merely allowed to gallop throughout.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens blew out his two Breeders' Cup contenders, both of whom will compete on Friday's program. Doremefasollatido zipped a quarter-mile from the eighth pole to the seven furlong marker in 23.29 while well in hand. Zaftig (Filly and Mare Turf) followed after the break and was absolutely full of run, flying down the stretch in 22.85 and out around the bend in 33.97, surprisingly fast for a filly entered to run 24 hours later.
Salute the Count tuned up for his start down the hillside course in the Turf Sprint by taking a long run to the pole and covering his opening eighth-mile in 11.15 seconds en route to a final three-furlong clocking of 34.80. He was pulled up abruptly once passing the wire, obviously for fear of doing too much more around the turn.
The turf course opened for business on two occasions. The first session was highlighted by Eagle Mountain (Turf), who turned in an eye-catching run down the stretch. He changed leads perfectly before galloping out with extremely high energy around the turn.
The following are some thoughts on horses competing in Saturday's Breeders' Cup races from observations made over the past week. The listings are arranged in post position order, not order of preference.
Delightful Kiss: Arrived early this week and looks like a happy, healthy horse after putting in a very strong gallop Thursday.
Zappa: Worked a solid seven furlongs in preparation for stretch back to 1 1/2 miles, showing a little more speed than expected, which might serve him well in a paceless event.
Big Booster: Like Delightful Kiss, he looked very sharp galloping over the main track Thursday.
Salute the Count: He was full of run blowing out a very fast three furlongs in 34.80 seconds over the Pro-Ride on Thursday after missing a scheduled work in New York last weekend. He remains a question mark over the downhill course.
Storm Treasure: He worked an easy half-mile over the main track Wednesday, finishing willingly, and like all of trainer Steve Asmussen's horses here has made a very striking appearance this week. An upset threat from off the pace on his best.
Desert Code: Should have finished up stronger than 12.07 seconds considering he was under heavy pressure through the final furlong of his final Breeders' Cup prep, which took place over the regular, not hillside, turf course.
California Flag: He was allowed to roll right into his last work, a three-furlong blowout that should have him on his toes from the outset of the Turf Sprint. He loves the hillside course but should have plenty of company on or near the front end.
Idiot Proof: He had an opportunity to test the hillside course for the first time earlier this week, breezing a relatively easy half-mile after being given ample time to school over the unique strip. He seemed to handle the switch in surfaces from turf to the Pro-Ride back to turf with no problem, but is another who figures part of a blistering early pace.
Get Funky: He turned in one of the better works of the week, zipping home his final three furlongs in 35.13 under a loose rein before galloping out strong around the turn. Owns home-field advantage over the course and possesses a running style that best fits the profile of the race.
Lewis Michael: He did all his major work in Kentucky before shipping locally, but has made a striking appearance and has been kept very busy during training hours since his arrival. He appears to be coming up to the race in top form.
Two Step Salsa: His final prep was a slow one coming on the heels of a blistering five-eighths drill seven days earlier. He wasn't allowed to do much early, while kept wide throughout, although I did expect to see him level out just a bit better once straightening down the stretch.
Pyro: Never got out of a fast gallop when working under the cloak of darkness earlier this week, leading one to speculate he might not be comfortable with the synthetic surface.
Albertus Maximus: Training like a tiger, he punctuated his week with a very aggressive five-furlong work in which he zipped along early and finished willingly under a loose rein. Seems to be peaking at the right time, and perhaps is the best alternative to the favorite.
Well Armed: His final prep may arguably have been the work of the week. Cruised along at a crisp pace without giving the appearance he was going nearly as fast as the stopwatch confirmed. He still had enough in the tank at the end to shade 12 seconds galloping out into the turn. He appeared totally relaxed throughout, an attribute that should serve him well with several speed types in this lineup.
Kip Deville: Did all his serious preparations in New York, where he was training up a storm, according to colleague David Grening. Looked like his old self galloping over the track here over the past couple of mornings.
Precious Kitten: Finished up strong after a slow start to her final prep while working in rings to keep her from doing too much a week out from the race. Only negative was the fact that she did not gallop out real strong, although perhaps that was not unexpected considering she is a turf specialist working on Pro-Ride. Fits with the boys at her best.
Goldikova: One of the world's premier turf fillies, she has done little more than jog and gallop since arriving locally. She seems to be adapting well to her surroundings but it is hard to figure how she might handle this rock-hard turf course.
Daytona: He was full of run blowing out for the race and appears to relish his home course. Figures on or with the lead throughout.
Whatsthescript: The two months between starts doesn't seem to have affected this improving colt, who finished up willingly in his final prep. Must overcome a very tough post.
Munnings: Perhaps he went slightly better than his stablemate Silent Valor when they worked in company over the weekend, although there was little to choose between them. The Champagne runner-up, he seems to be handling the Pro-Ride willingly enough. Might try to steal this one if able to come away running from the rail.
Gallant Son: Gave the impression he could outrun his odds considering the manner in which he finished his bullet six-furlong work. Indicated he will certainly be fit enough to handle the distance after galloping an additional five furlongs following the conclusion of the sharp drill.
Square Eddie: Has the high striding action one might associate with a turf horse, which may explain why he seems to handle artificial surfaces so well. He was not asked for much in his final prep until passing the wire, after which he was put to some urging to finish a final eighth in 11.86 seconds around the turn. Seems to have bounced out of the work well, with several nice gallops later in the week.
Azul Leon: He attempted to lug in through the stretch while under some pressure to finish when working several minutes prior to stablemate Square Eddie. He certainly was the least impressive of the pair.
Street Hero: Breezed in the blinkers he wore for the first time winning the Norfolk. He is normally a fast worker, and I expected a little stronger finish after he loped along through a rather leisurely opening half-mile in his final Juvenile prep.
Mine That Bird: Final time of his most recent work was a creditable 59.81 seconds, but he had to be kept to pressure to keep pace with his workmate, a 3-year-old maiden filly.
Midshipman: Turned in one of the better works of the week, breaking off several lengths behind his workmate (an unraced maiden) before finishing up strong and galloping out willingly into the turn. Looks great, must overcome outside post.
Coronet of a Baron: Seemed to stride out willingly enough working over turf for the first time, but would have liked to have seen him finish up just a bit stronger. Remains a bit of a question mark switching from dirt to grass.
Skipadate: Turned in his final work equipped with blinkers, which he'll wear for the first time Saturday, and did show improved speed before tiring noticeably late in the stretch and during his gallop out.
Cost of Freedom: Turned in a deceptively fast work since he did not give the appearance he was moving along at such a rapid clip, always a positive sign. Razor sharp but rail draw may not be in his best interests.
Street Boss: Just like Cost of Freedom, surely a horse for the course. Was not allowed to do much more than open gallop blowing out Wednesday, but he obviously is among the major players in this lineup at his best.
Fabulous Strike: I was looking forward to seeing him try the Pro-Ride for the first time, and while he moved over the surface willingly enough, he appeared to tire slightly and did not gallop out quite as strong as expected. Remains very dangerous if able to move forward off his huge effort in the Vosburgh.
Midnight Lute: Training as well as anyone here this week and looking like his old, champion self. Relaxed early and put his massive stride on display coming down the stretch after changing leads perfectly exiting the turn in his latest work, while obviously showing no ill effects from his blistering 56 and change drill the previous week. Worked in a bar shoe, which will be removed on race day.
First Defence: Gave every indication he'll be part of the early pace after sizzling over the course here last weekend before tiring just slightly at the end. Left little doubt he has adapted nicely to the Pro-Ride.
Black Seventeen: Worked in company. Another who appeared to struggle keeping pace with his mate, struggling through a slow final quarter-mile under pressure.
In Summation: He was hard-held early and then finished with good interest while hitting the ground quite hard coming down the stretch of a final prep that indicated he just may be cycling back to last winter's super form.
Fatal Bullet: A synthetic surface specialist, but he got quite leg weary working over the local surface before falling apart completely during his gallop-out of a somewhat disappointing drill over the weekend.
Dancing Forever: Final time of his local turf work was irrelevant with the dogs out so far on the course. Finished on even terms under little urging after giving workmate a two-length head start. Should relish a return to firm ground.
Spring House: Horse for the course showed some surprising speed blowing out over the main track. Gives every indication he is capable of bouncing back from disappointing try in the Clement Hirsch.
Conduit: He has not appeared comfortable over the local course during a series of morning gallops, particularly on Thursday when allowed to open gallop down the lane.
Eagle Mountain: In contrast to Conduit, he looked tremendous breezing over the turf course Thursday, switching leads perfectly and galloping out with plenty of energy back around to the clubhouse turn.
Go Between: Synthetic specialist had two very good mornings following his arrival from Kentucky earlier this week.
Tiago: Like Go Between, he was full of energy Thursday in his first visit to the course, galloping at better than a two-minute clip much of the way.
Duke of Marmalade: Got a little warm his first morning here, not as much the second, but looked a little stiff breaking off for his initial gallop over the course Thursday.
Henrythenavigator: He lathered up noticeably during each of his first two mornings here and also needed a little time before beginning to stretch out galloping over the Pro-Ride for the first time Thursday,
Smooth Air: He's obviously feeling full of himself after his two-minute lick turned into closer to a one-mile work Thursday.
Student Council: Has had a very good week. He is giving every indication that he might just duplicate his career-best effort behind Commentator in the Whitney.
Curlin: Continues to make a monstrous appearance, and it's hard to fault anything he's done over the Pro-Ride since his arrival earlier this month. The one to beat once again.
Colonel John: Like Curlin, he was not asked to do much in his final prep earlier this week following back-to-back bullet drills turned in before our arrival last week.
Champs Elysees: Turf specialist took to the main track quite nicely while working with the blinkers he'll wear for the first time in the Classic. Moved along at a crisp pace without urging throughout the very impressive five-furlong drill.
All times clocked by Daily Racing Form unless mentioned otherwise.