Pleasantly Perfect, ridden by jockey Jerry Bailey, draws away to win the Pacific Classic, Sunday at Del Mar.

Pleasantly Perfect, ridden by jockey Jerry Bailey, draws away to win the Pacific Classic, Sunday at Del Mar.


Pacific Classic is Pleasantly Perfect

Pleasantly Perfect, rebounding strongly from defeat three weeks ago in the San Diego Handicap (gr. II), convincingly took the centerpiece of the Del Mar meeting, the Pacific Classic (gr. I), with a scintillating turn of foot the last quarter mile.

Ridden for the first time by Jerry Bailey, Pleasantly Perfect held a charging Perfect Drift at bay down the stretch to prevail by one length in a time of 2:01 for the 10 furlongs. Total Impact was third, followed by Choctaw Nation, During, Colonial Colony, El Elogiado, and Night Patrol.

Pleasantly Perfect (Pleasant Colony -- Regal State) in one fell swoop re-established himself as the undisputed favorite for a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) with his effort in the 14th Pacific Classic.

Sitting fifth early in the contest, Bailey was still five lengths off the pace up the backstretch. But approaching the quarter pole, Bailey and Pleasantly Perfect began cruising on the outside, and although four wide turning for home, the winner inhaled Total Impact. Perfect Drift put in his usual steady run, but could get no closer to the winner than the closing margin.

Trained by Richard Mandella, and owned by Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing, Pleasantly Perfect took the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) in March, and looked completely recovered from that journey. The even-money favorite, he paid $4 for the win. Clovelly Farms bred Pleasantly Perfect in Kentucky. By winning the $600,000 purse in the Pacific Classic, Pleasantly Perfect increased his lifetime bankroll to $7,349,880, putting him fifth all- time among North American earners. Cigar is the leader at $9,999,815.

The victory was Mandella's third in the Pacific Classic (Dare And Go in 1996 and Gentlemen in 1997). It was his first stakes win at this meeting and his 40th overall at Del Mar. The stakes win was the first in the Pacific Classic for Jerry Bailey, who had run second the only other times he had ridden in it (Cigar in 1996 and Medaglia d'Oro in 2003).

"He was a little fresh again leaving the gate, but he got the idea before he hit the first turn to settle and he just waited for me to call on him," Bailey said. "I didn't want to call on him too soon because the whole idea is to get him to settle back and finish. Sometimes on a good horse, you just want to be the passenger...He's kind of a big, lumbering horse, but when that gate opens he's very smooth and you love to ride one like him. I wanted to stay busy on him because I was afraid of Choctaw Nation (coming from the back). I didn't want to go by Total Impact and have him (Choctaw Nation) come rushing by me."

"This is just a wonderful horse to ride. He gives you his best," jockey Pat Day said of Perfect Drift. "He gave me his best today and I'm proud of the way he ran. Unlike the other day (second in the Whitney at Saratoga), he kept to his task today. He was trying hard all the way. This is a classy horse and his people are classy people. It's a pleasure to deal with folks like this."

"I've been eating my heart out for the last three weeks because he lost the San Diego," Mandella said. "I felt responsible for that loss. He shouldn't have a loss in that race on his record. I put too much speed into him before the race and he was too keen. He was too fresh and was rank. And there he was running too close to the lead in that race. He never did that before. That was a worry this time. I had to take that speed down after that race. I tried to keep him steady; I gave him a lot of paddock work. When you have a great horse, it's a great responsibility for a trainer."

"Second again, but it took the world's greatest horse to beat him," trainer Murray Johnson said of Perfect Drift. "If I can finish second in races like this, I don't care if I don't win another race. It seems it's going to work out this way. He ran great; did everything right. He just got beat by a better horse. We're going to try to find another two-turn race and maybe win one of these sometime."

(Chart, Equibase)