Favored Pleasantly Perfect, making his first start since March 1, won Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita for the second year in a row, tenaciously defeating a determined Fleetstreet Dancer by a half-length.
Ridden by Alex Solis, Pleasantly Perfect, a 5-year-old horse by Pleasant Colony, is being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25 by trainer Richard Mandella. The bay, owned by Diamond A Racing Corp., became the first horse since Lord At War in 1984-85 to win back-to-back runnings of the Goodwood, which started in 1982.
The time for the 1 1/8-mile event was 1:48 1/5. Star Cross finished third, another 1 1/4 length behind, in the eight-horse field.
Pleasantly Perfect was content to race toward the rear of the field into the final turn after tepid fractions of :24 1/5, : 48 2/5 and 1:11 4/5. Not as far back as usual due to the slow pace, Solis, swung Pleasantly wide as the field came out of the far turn, and with some urging pushed him to the front past pacesetting Taste of Paradise, Toccet and Joey Franco. Fleetstreet Dancer, a former claimer ridden by Tyler Baze for trainer Doug O'Neill, came widest of all off the turn and the duo soon hooked up in the stretch and fought it out down the lane.
Mandella said his biggest worry was the dawdling pace. "I've got to give the credit to Alex (Solis)," the trainer said. "I wouldn't have bet in a million years that they would walk like that and he sensed that as they went down the backside and moved him right into contention. It made the difference."
Said Solis, "At the half-mile pole we had to make a little bit of an early run because they were walking (on the lead). I had plenty of horse. He's a heavy son of a gun, he keeps trying trying and trying, and you've got to keep riding him."
"(Fleetstreet Dancer) ran dynamite," O'Neill said. "He ran great. I'm just so proud of him. The game plan was for him to come from off the pace but I wasn't expecting them to go that slow early. For him to close in on a pace that slow, that was pretty impressive. I think it (Breeders' Cup Classic) is a possibility. He's nominated, so it's definitely a possibility."
Due to several setbacks, Pleasantly Perfect has started just twice since winning last year's Goodwood. After missing last year's Breeders' Cup Classic because of an Illinois racing rule regarding bleeders, he went to the sidelines until returning in February with a third-place finish in the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita. He followed that with a fourth-place showing in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) March 1.
Overall, he's 5-2-1 from only 12 career starts. Saturday's $300,000 winning share pushed his career earnings to $869,880.
Pleasantly Perfect paid $4.80, $3.20 and $2.80. Fleetstreet Dancer returned $5 and $3.60. Star Cross, ridden by Ryan Fogelsonger, showed for $7.80. The $2 exacta was worth $24.
Joey Franco, the starting high weight at 117 pounds, finished fourth and was followed under the wire by Taste of Paradise, Reba's Gold, Grey Memo and Toccet.
"I don't know (what happened)," said Toccet's conditioner, John Scanlan. "I wish I had something to say. The horse is fine. If he had a problem I would say so, you know what I mean, but he just didn't seem to fire at all. He wanted to get to it early, go to the front and we were hoping he would lay off the pace a little bit. With this horse, you can't restrain him. You've just got to let him run for what he's worth. All his races have been won on his own. Anytime we've asked him to do something like new, he has backfired."
Asked what he'd do about running in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Scanlan said, "I would I felt if he couldn't beat them horses, no sense in trying the next ones. We're going home."