Barn Notes from Churchill Downs
Sir Micheal Stoute's Breeders' Cup duo of the Aga Kahn's Kalanisi (Turf) and Highclere's Petrushka (Filly & Mare Turf) were on the Churchill Downs turf course Sunday for what was scheduled to be a routine six-furlong work -- but little went according to plan. After three days of quiet canters and gallops over the grass course, Kalanisi unleashed a display of fractious and stubborn behavior worthy of the best of Classic contender Fusaichi Pegasus.
The winner of the Dubai Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket balked while galloping alongside Petrushka on the backstretch. The son of Doyoun balked several times before his work, apparently reacting to unfamiliar noises and sights -- including the presence of other horses jogging toward him on the track. He was finally coaxed into a very solid five-furlong work, but then he propped while galloping out on the first turn and dumped exercise rider Wally Lowsby, who held on to a reign while falling from the saddle and managed to keep Kalanisi from running off.
In between all of that activity, Kalanisi breezed four furlongs in :50 1/5 on "firm" turf with the "dogs" up. Petrushka breezed four furlongs in :49 3/5 with Terry Fahey in the irons.
Afterward, with Kalanisi and Petrushka safely back in the barn, Stoute said the former's unfamiliarity with the sights and sounds of Churchill Downs at mid-morning.
"He had never been so confused before," said Stoute. "He's gone on the track and there's something right the way up to the turn into the straight. Then he canters away and there's one working past him as well. He can be a little bit of a character at home, sort of approaching canters, you know? It's something he doesn't like too much, but once he's on the move he seems to be OK. But there were a lot of distractions this morning and up until now he's been fine."
Stoute was pleased with what he saw from Kalanisi once the colt got his mind on business.
"Once he got moving, he really got down and stretched," he said. "He really likes running. He obviously likes a little bit of diversion, as well."
Stoute, who trained Pilsudski to win the Breeders' Cup Turf at Woodbine in 1996, was also pleased with the move by Petrushka, who quickly accelerated after a virtual standing start for her work because of Kalanisi's antics.
"She got down and stretched well," Stoute said. "I was very happy with her."
Stoute was smiling after the unexpectedly interesting morning with his pair, apparently adopting the attitude that all's well that ends well.
"He was just being a bit of a playboy today," Stoute said. "They were going to work in company. He was actually going to lead her, because we thought he would be all right because he was enjoying it up to today."