With 48 hours to go before Breeders' Cup day, Santa Anita offered a glorious morning for track workers. The range overlooking the course was soon free of morning mist, and another canopy has moved on. Helicopters overhead are a reminder that some in Los Angeles have more than racing on their minds, but the smoke from the fires, which forced riders to wear masks last week, has now swept away from the racecourse.
Horses seemed to gallop everywhere on the dirt track yesterday, many of them steered by jockeys in a strange, upright, knee-locked posture, but the three that mattered early on for the British were Wolfhound, Catrail and Sayyedati.
The first-named moved easily over nine furlongs, but John Gosden, his trainer, has already tossed the colt's chances into the LA bonfires. 'Wolfhound is suited to this racing, he's a beautifully balanced horse, but he's drawn 13 and that's a killer,' he said. 'If I'd known I was going to get that I wouldn't have shipped him.'
Catrail is better placed in stall five, and is at least in the demonic mood he shows at home on the Newmarket gallops. Yesterday, he decided that a journey around Santa Anita would be more enjoyable without Mark Banner, and jettisoned his work-rider as soon as he stepped out on to the dirt.
'Catrail's a big, tough, strong, ignorant bastard,' Gosden said. 'He's an entertaining if nerve-wracking horse to train. But he's done far worse than this at Newmarket and Mark should wear a parachute when he rides him.'
Sayyedati was a more compliant partner for Brett Doyle. The filly, her legs coloured by blue bandages and red tape, went down to a stalls test accompanied by Francois Boutin's Coup De Genie, whose rider, Cash Asmussen, carried his whip in the much favoured location of a jeans back-pocket.
Sayyedati, who must emerge from the gate like a cork from a shaken bottle if she is to win the Sprint, pleased her connections. 'She jumped out real quick,' Doyle reported. 'She was a bit slow into her stride, but when she gets other horses to race with she'll be all right.'
Clive Brittain, Sayyedati's trainer, arrived at the quarantine yard swinging from his buggy and was no less ebullient after his filly's stalls test. 'If anything was to jump faster than she did there it would have wings on,' he said. 'She had two assistants, one each side of her, and when they pushed she just flew out.
'If she starts like that on Saturday it will give Walter (Swinburn) a chance to settle her for a furlong and then go.'
Brittain discounted opinions that his runner would be taken off her feet by a murderous pace. 'She's a big filly, I know, but there's nothing sloppy about her, she's an athlete.'
'With the switch back in distance, I go back a few years to Crepello. He would have been the champion sprinter of his year, yet he won a Derby. Real class always has speed with it.'
Michael Stoute always has an air of secrecy with him and yesterday was no different. Opera House's trainer would not be drawn on whether his horse will run on medication in the Turf.
'Even if I give him Bute no-one will know,' he said. 'You don't have to declare it.'
Yesterday's results, page 39Reuse content