Fusaichi Pegasus Breezes; Riboletta Sparkles

Fusaichi Pegasus Breezes; Riboletta Sparkles
Photo: Associated Press/ John Dunn
Fusaichi Pegasus, shown at Aqueduct Racetrack earlier this year, breezed Monday at Churchill Downs.
From Churchill Downs
Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus, turned in his long-awaited first breeze since his return to Churchill Downs a week ago.

Fusao Sekiguchi's son of Mr. Prospector breezed six furlongs in 1:16 4/5 in the pre-dawn training move over a "fast" track. Regular exercise rider Andy Durnin was aboard Fusaichi Pegasus, who worked in company with Bodyguard, who was his regular workmate in the days leading up to his Kentucky Derby victory.

The Neil Drysdale-trained Fusaichi Pegasus broke off about a length behind his workmate and pulled alongside Bodyguard as the pair moved toward the top of the stretch. The pair ran as a team toward the wire with Bodyguard finishing about a half-length in front on the wire. Fusaichi Pegasus moved past his stablemate near the seven-eighths pole as the pair galloped out after the work. Bodyguard was also timed in 1:16 4/5 for the six furlongs.

Drysdale, who won the 1992 Classic with Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, was pleased with the effort by Fusaichi Pegasus. "He went well," he said. "He had a nice gallop into it and just cruised around with his pal, Bodyguard. He looked like he was enjoying himself. He looked very happy."

Drysdale said he was not looking for blazing speed in the work. "I would term it a 'cruising breeze' -- just a cruising work that he was working very much within himself," he said. "Durnin was riding him and he never dropped his hands on him. He just sat there against him. It worked out well."

Fusaichi Pegasus last raced in the one-mile Jerome (gr. II) at Belmont Park on Sept. 23. Drysdale had looked at a bid for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) on Oct. 14, but pulled his colt from consideration for that race after he suffered a minor foot injury. The trainer said that injury no longer appears to be a concern.

"Everything looked to me to be in good order," said Drysdale. "We had sort of planned just to go into the Jerome and then in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He came out of the Jerome so well that we started to consider the Jockey Club Gold Cup, but it was as an afterthought. So it would have been a bonus if he had run. I wasn't that keen to be running him a mile and a quarter and then running him back three weeks later at another mile and a quarter, so I'm quite happy with the way we're coming into this race."

Fusaichi Pegasus is one of three Breeders' Cup contenders in Drysdale's care. He will also saddle Irving and Marjorie Cowan's Oak Tree Breeders' Cup (gr. II) winner War Chant in the $1 million Mile and Stonerside Stable, LLC's British import Freefourracing, winner of last week's Indian Summer at Keeneland in her U.S. debut.

"I think Freefourracing should improve off that race," Drysdale said. "War Chant is very talented, but as we all know in the Breeders' Cup Mile on the grass, you need a lot of luck. You do really need the racing gods to be smiling on you and things have to break your way. And Fusaichi Pegasus is coming up to the race very well and I'm pleased with him."

RIBOLETTA SPARKLES IN FIRST WORK AT CHURCHILL -- Aaron and Marie Jones' Riboletta figured to be a heavy favorite in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) even before her first work over the track at Churchill Downs, the site of Racing's Championship Day on Nov. 4.

But anyone looking for a chink in her armor would be hard-pressed to find one after the 5-year-old Brazilian-bred mare turned in a sizzling effort in what trainer Eduardo Inda had intended to be an "easy" three furlong move over the Louisville track.

Riboletta, the winner of the Ruffian (gr. I) and Beldame (gr. I) in her last two starts, worked three furlongs handily in :35 over a "fast" track under veteran exercise rider Jose Cuevas. She galloped out four furlongs in :47 2/5 -- a time that was faster than any of the 41 half-mile works on the Monday work tab.

"She really fooled me," said Cuevas. "I thought she was going in :37 or :38 with the way she was moving. She's got a long stride on her."

The work was the fastest of 12 at the three furlong distance that also included moves by Riboletta's 3-year-old stablemate Forest Camp (:36, breezing) and 3-year-old sprinter King's Command (:35 2/5, handily).

"I had a hold of her the whole way," said Cuevas. "I never turned her head loose. That was easy for her."

"She's so good right now," Inda said. "She's right on top of her game right now. That's what it is more than anything, really."

Riboletta has won six consecutive races and is easily the best horse trained by Inda since he struck out on his own five years ago after spending 20 years as an assistant to trainer Ron McAnally.

But he worked with some great ones in his years with McAnally -- including two-time Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Bayakoa -- and Inda compares Riboletta favorably to those horses.

"Bayakoa used to work the same way like this mare, very fast," said Inda. "John Henry was another horse that was the same way. But you're talking about a couple of champions there. And we've got a champion right now and this morning she looked like it, so I feel very good about it."

Inda said Riboletta will have one more work before the 1 1/8-mile Distaff on Nov. 4. That will likely be a five furlong move on Sunday, Oct. 29. After that, he will focus on getting his star to the starting gate to complete what has already been an incredible season.

"It's really been a dream, you know?," said Inda. "I've been very lucky to be training for Mr. and Mrs. Jones and very lucky to be training Riboletta. When you have the horse, you look good. Horses make you look very good."

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