by Bernard T. Moore
(Editor's Note: Content for this handicapping notebook is provided by Brisnet)Week 3 drew to a close at Lone Star Park on Sunday and, as a result, the Breeders' Cup is inching closer and closer. Many of the likely participants in these races are putting the final touches on their serious preparation for the World Thoroughbred Championships, as all the significant prep races for this prestigious event have been concluded. A sure sign that the Breeders' Cup is on the horizon is the fact that pre-entries for the eight Championship races were taken on October 18. Those connections who have been straddling the fence will now be forced to decide whether their runners will join the casting call for "The Cup," or merely assume the role of onlooker for this extravagant event. Breeders' Cup hopefuls were scheduled to begin arriving at Lone Star Park on Monday, and that should serve to heighten anticipation for the upcoming event. The only stakes carded at Lone Star Park last weekend was Saturday's $50,000 Wild Flower. A five-furlong turf event for fillies and mares, it drew a field of 12, including Arlington Park invader NICOLE'S DREAM (Northern Trend), trained by Larry Rivelli. His motto for the eventual winner, Nicole's Dream, must sound something like this, "Have five-furlong turf specialist; will travel." That has been the case for Nicole's Dream, who has literally crisscrossed the Midwest and East Coast in search of abbreviated turf sprints. Her odyssey began at Tampa Bay Downs in February of 2003, and more recently she sought refuge at Lone Star Park. Nicole's Dream quickly assumed a daylight advantage on Saturday shortly after the gates opened. For all intents and purposes, the race was over as this four-year-old Florida-bred simply does not like to yield on the lead. Leslie's Love (Combat Ready), the subsequent runner-up, tested Nicole's Dream in earnest entering the stretch, but the winner was up to the task, reporting home three parts of a length to the good. A gem of consistency for her connections, Nicole's Dream has been off the board on only two occasions in 2004, facing males on September 19, and competing over a wet track at Tampa Bay on March 16, her initial start off a substantial layoff. Anna Em (Our Emblem), the 9-5 race favorite in the Wild Flower, clearly did not fire, finishing 10th after flashing early speed before retreating badly. It was the first time she has run out of the money in four grass starts. As week 3 began at Lone Star, the majority of winners on the main track were coming from off the pace, especially in routes. As the week wore on, the track began to even out. There was no perceivable bias sprinting, while races run around two turns began to favor early speed. As far as paths were concerned, there did not appear to be any perceivable biases. Speed on grass definitely played a lot better than it had in the first two weeks of the meet. Steve Asmussen has begun to lengthen his lead in the trainer standings. Asmussen has done particularly well this meet with maidens and claimers in sprints, with a good number of those winners returning off a layoff. There is a real dogfight for the second spot on the trainers list with no fewer than eight trainers within a couple of victories of each another. Gamaliel Vazquez is in the thick of that battle, training for the controversial Mike Gill. The race for leading jockey is a horse of a different color. Donnie Meche holds a tenuous lead, with Roman Chapa and Larry Taylor sharing second-place honors, as Casey Lambert, Monte Berry and Eddie Martin follow to complete the top five spots. Meche derives most of his winners from Asmussen, while Chapa has had victories with as many as six different trainers. HORSES TO WATCH Thursday (10/14) 2ND -- POLISH AFFAIR (Polish Numbers) offered a good-looking debut victory for trainer Mike Stidham. Had the look of a winner nearly every step of the way. Clearly never asked for his best. Could handle the rise into a preliminary allowance contest if properly placed. 5TH - FABORITO (Favorite Trick) was allowed to drop too far behind when unhurried early. Weakly handled on the far turn and into the stretch. Closed well along the rail in the stretch, mostly on his own courage to just miss the place. Probably should have been second, and with a stronger rider could possibly have won. Friday (10/15) 1ST -- DESERT THIEF (Red Ransom) was an authoritative win in Lone Star Park debut. Swept to the lead and widened thereafter in first start for trainer Ronnie Morse. Certainly could handle NW2L for 10K, and maybe a tad better if properly spotted. 2ND -- SUBTLE MONEY (Raji) bobbled breaking from the gate. Relegated to race at the back of the pack. Began to level off on the turn and into the stretch, closing with good energy late while facing a tough task off the shelf against an odds-on winning favorite. Has shown speed on occasion, and Lone Star is clearly not his preferred course. Also eligible for NW3L company. Saturday (10/16) 3RD -- DOBBINS HALO (Sunny's Halo) was caught in traffic while racing in and among horses down the backstretch. Had to steady when caught in tight quarters on the far turn. Finished with interest in the stretch when clear to be second best, but could not overhaul a loose front-runner who raced freely on the lead. 7TH -- BIGBADBUBBA (Caller I.D.) was bet down to 10-1 off a morning odds line of 20-1 for his turf debut. Veered toward the inside at the break and was unable to assume customary position on or near the lead. Forced to race between runners, he angled to the outside on the far turn and into the stretch, drifting a bit under a five-pound apprentice rider. Finished evenly in the stretch under weak handling to run third. Probably could have gained the place with a stronger ride as second-place finisher benefited from a ground saving trip. Sunday (10/17)6TH -- LACEY DAWN (Manzotti) finished a good second dropping down to 15K vs. straight three-year-olds. Finished with good energy despite racing a bit wide. Fits well at this level and can improve further in the right spot.