On a foggy, overcast morning Oct. 20 at Santa Anita Park, trainer Steve Asmussen worked three of his star stablemates who will contend against one another in the Oct. 25 Breeders’ Cup Classic if all goes as planned.
Before the sun came up just after 6 a.m. PDT, grade II winner Pyro turned in a final workout prior to the Classic of four furlongs in :51 1/5, followed by reigning Horse of the Year Curlin , who ran the same distance in :49 3/5, and this year’s Pimlico Special Handicap (gr. I) winner Student Council, who covered the ground in :48 even.
When considering Curlin’s workout, Asmussen said, “He’s definitely has come back on his feet. With all the attention around here, we thought he breezed fabulously between the races last week. He looked very eager today and went over the ground well. We’re very pleased with him.”
“Pyro worked early, and he’s coming off a three week turnaround,” said Asmussen of the son of Pulpit, who finished second in the Oct. 4 Indiana Derby (gr. II) Hoosier Park. “His weight has done well here; the weather has done him good.”
Student Council will attempt to bounce back from a fifth-place effort in the Aug. 24 Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar with his performance in the Breeders’ Cup, which will be the last of his racing career.
“(Student Council) was more than a handful and seemed extremely sharp coming off the 60-day layoff,” said Asmussen. “I think (Pyro, Curlin, and Student Council) are all very accomplished horses and I feel great about the condition in which they’re going into the race.”
Though Asmussen is confident in each of his Classic-bound barn members, he does have some concerns about Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface.
“Surface-wise, we’re getting our bearings about it,” he said. “We just want more information, and with that being said, we want to work within the barometer of these horses’ personalities and learn what they will accept. There aren’t a whole lot of route races to judge (the surface) by..”
When asked why he had chosen to enter three horses in the Classic, Asmussen said he thought they all deserved the opportunity.
According to him, Pyro had had a durable, tough year, starting with his 3-year-old debut in February, but was still doing well physically.
“With his third in the Travers Stakes (gr. I), there was a ton of traffic, we just wanted another shot at the distance for him,” Asmussen explained.
Looking at Student Council, a grade I winner on both synthetic surfaces and dirt, and with the Classic being his last race before going to the breeding shed, Asmussen thought the son of Kingmambodeserved the opportunity to run in the Classic.
“Finally, with Curlin, being the Horse of the Year and very much a fan favorite, and who he is, I think he deserves the opportunity as well as everybody getting to watch him,” said Asmussen. “Mr. (Jess) Jackson (Curlin's majority owner) obviously didn’t put him back into training for monetary reasons. He was worth more money to stop on. But everyone wants to see him, and he’s going to allow that to happen.
“I’m so proud of what Curlin has done for everybody involved, and mainly for Curlin,” he continued.
Asmussen said of the son of Smart Strike’s victory in the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) March 29. “And then (winning) the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), for (Curlin) to go by the $10 million mark and be the all-time North American leading money earner with a grade I victory on that stage, those are just things you can’t write. I think about them all the time and just how blessed we are to be involved with him.”