Del Mar Notebook: A Look Back; A Look Ahead

by Brian P. Turner -- (Editor's Note: Content for this weekly handicapping notebook is provided by Brisnet)

It was only three short weeks ago that Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) hero PLEASANTLY PERFECT (Pleasant Colony) suffered his first defeat of the year at the hands of the undefeated CHOCTAW NATION (Louis Quatorze). Immediately, word began to circulate that the six-year-old horse was yet another victim of the infamous "Dubai Bounce."

For those unfamiliar with the term, it is used to describe a horse that competes in the highly prestigious Dubai World Cup and whose career begins to noticeably tail off once they return. This term has in the past been attached to such runners as the legendary Cigar and Silver Charm. Proponents of the Dubai Bounce firmly believe that horses can never be the same after racing in the deserts of the Middle East and after Pleasantly Perfect's defeat in the August 1 San Diego H. (G2), they were all too quick to add him to the list.

These proponents must have failed to actually watch the race for if they had, they would have seen the Pleasantly Perfect actually put in an outstanding effort. Though he finished second, he was only beaten three parts of a length by a very talented and undefeated runner to whom he was conceding 10 pounds. If anything, the event served as a solid prep to put Pleasantly Perfect at the top of his game to compete in Sunday's 10-furlong, $1 million Pacific Classic S. (G1).

Standing in Pleasantly Perfect's way was a field of seven that not only included Choctaw Nation but Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner TOTAL IMPACT (Chi) (Stuka). A couple of Grade 1 winners, COLONIAL COLONY (Pleasant Colony) and PERFECT DRIFT (Dynaformer), also shipped in from the east. All in all, it appeared to be a very daunting task for a horse whose connections had dared to send him to the Middle East to compete for a $6 million purse.

Once the gates sprang open, outsider EL ELOGIADO (Arg) (Acceptable) shot to the early lead under Kent Desormeaux and guided the field through early fractions of :23 2/5 and :46 4/5 as Pleasantly Perfect was content to lay some five lengths off the pace. Once the field neared the final turn, jockey Jerry Bailey began to close ground on the front-runners and moved to the outside to make his run.

Pleasantly Perfect came off the turn with a four wide move to challenge Total Impact, who had inherited the lead once the early pacesetter faltered. The two battled it out through much of the stretch drive, even exchanging bumps along the way, before Bailey began to pull away. Pleasantly Perfect crossed the finish line a length in front.

Perfect Drift put in an outstanding effort, closing with a tremendous turn of foot to pick up the place, three parts of a length in front of Total Impact in third.

On Saturday, Del Mar racing fans were treated to a pair of graded stakes events, kicking off with the Del Mar Oaks (G1), which was contested at nine furlongs over the Jimmy Durante turf course. The James Cassidy-trained TICKER TAPE (GB) (Royal Applause [GB]) was sent to the gate as the lukewarm favorite off her impressive score in the American Oaks (G1) at Hollywood back in early July.

The three-year-old filly was forced to contend with a solid field of seven that included East Coast shipper SEDUCER'S SONG (Unbridled's Song), who was coming off a 1 1/2-length score in the Lake George S. (G3) at Saratoga and SWEET WIN (King of Kings [Ire]), heroine of the San Clemente H. (G2) earlier in the Del Mar meet.

In the end, the day belonged to outsider AMORAMA (Fr) (Sri Pekan) who was sent off as the second longest shot on the board due to the fact that she had constantly been coming up on the short end of the stick against many of these same rivals. The dark bay was content to lay last through the early stages of the race and made a huge move off of the second turn to steadily gain ground on the leaders. She got up at the wire to finish a nose in front. Ticker Tape was second, one length in front of Sweet Win.

In Saturday's other graded offering, a field of seven went to the gate for the Rancho Bernardo H. (G3), a 6 1/2-furlong main track event for fillies and mares. DREAM OF SUMMER (Siberian Summer) was sent off as the even money favorite and rewarded chalk players by dueling throughout and holding on late under a stiff drive to claim the victory by a neck. BARBARA ORR (Tale of the Cat), the other combatant in the pace duel, fought gamely to the end and picked up second, 3 1/2 lengths clear of third placer CYBER SLEW (Siberian Summer).

The week's other stakes action got under way on Wednesday as a field of six three-year-olds and up contested the 5 1/2-furlong Green Flash S. on the lawn. GERONIMO (Chi) (Gold Tribute) rallied from off the pace and got up in the final strides to cross the wire a head in front. GLICK (Theatrical [Ire]) picked up the place, six lengths clear of GRAY JAG (Ponche) in third.

On Friday, a mere field of five went to the gate for the Harry F. Brubaker H. at 1 1/16 miles on the grass. CAYOKE (Fr) (Always Fair) stalked the pace early before battling gamely through the stretch drive to finish three parts of a length in front. BUDDY GIL (Eastern Echo) was second, a head in front of favored KING OF HAPPINESS (Spinning World) in third.

Finally, on Sunday, a field of seven went head to head in the Barona Cup H. for three-year-old fillies going eight furlongs on the lawn. SHAKE OFF (A.P. Indy) rallied from last, getting up in the final strides, to claim victory by a nose. JOHN'S KINDA GIRL (Lost Soldier) fought gamely to the end but was forced to settle for second, a length in front of favored BONAIRE (GB) (Air Express) in third.

Runners on or near the lead once more held the advantage while sprinting on the main track this week, but dirt route races tended to play pretty fair overall. As for the turf, the lone sprint went to a runner from off the pace, and those types held a slight advantage in the turf routes as well.

Jeff Mullins has taken over the lead in the trainer standings and currently holds a 22-20 lead over Doug O'Neill. Bob Baffert is third with 14 winners for the meet. As for the jockeys, Tyler Baze continues to lead the way having booted home 41 winners thus far. Corey Nakatani and Victor Espinoza come next with 34 and 29, respectively.


Wednesday (08/18)
3RD - MT. SILVER (Lucky Lionel) was stalking the pace early in this maiden claiming event but was forced to steady, causing him to lose position in the field. The three-year-old colt re-rallied though and finished well to miss by a length. The chestnut's pedigree indicates that he will loom an even larger threat should the connections decide to try him on the grass.

6TH - AMERICAN LIBERTY (Storm Cat) was four wide on the first turn and through the backstretch of this allowance optional claiming event. The four-year-old colt gained the lead in the stretch drive and fought gamely to the wire, but he was run down late to miss by only a neck.

Thursday (08/19)
1ST - SENFULLY EASY (Mr. Easy Money) was claimed out of this event for the seventh time in her last nine starts. The constant movement from barn to barn has not seemed to affect her as she compiled a record of 9-6-1-2 during this period, including a seven-length romp here.

5TH - I'MAGAMBLER (Slewdledo) found nothing but trouble in his first career start. After leaving the gate, the two-year-old gelding was bumped and then forced to check. From there, he was content to lie near the back of the pack early but by the time the field came off the turn for the stretch drive, he had moved back into contention.

As the dark bay began to make his move up the rail, the hole closed in front of him and he was forced to steady again. Once he found a way through, he closed with nice strides to miss by only a nose.

Friday (08/20)
1ST - AWESOME DIVIDEND (Awesome Again ) returns to the Watch List after easily disposing of this starter allowance field by 2 1/2 lengths under little more than a hand ride from Nakatani.

Saturday (08/21)
6TH - SWISS LAD (Phone Saga) returns to the Watch List after easily disposing of this maiden special weight field by four lengths under nothing but a hand ride. The two-year-old colt first appeared on the list after finishing a fast-closing third in the Graduation S. earlier in the meet, and he appears to be more than ready to return to stakes competition.

Sunday (08/22)
4TH - Shake Off put in a nice effort in rallying from off the pace in the Barona Cup, even overcoming some bumping in the stretch drive, to pick up the victory.

7TH - GATHERING GOLD (General Meeting) put in a solid effort in his first attempt on the grass by rallying from well off the pace to miss by a neck in this maiden special event. The dark bay has a solid pedigree for the lawn and should loom as a solid threat in his next try over the surface.

8TH - Pleasantly Perfect is back in solid form and appears to be, hands down, the best 10-furlong performer in North America right now.

Monday (08/23)
3RD - B. Z. JONES (Geri) took the lead early in this claiming event and never looked back, eventually crossing the finish line 6 1/2 lengths in front. The gelding is in solid form of late and will loom a threat in his next start, provided he returns against similar.