Congaree to Tackle Pleasantly Perfect

Stonerside Stables' Congaree will defend his title in the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Santa Anita despite being assigned 124 pounds for his 6-year-old seasonal debut.

Trainer Bob Baffert said he wants to tackle the San Antonio even though Congaree will spot four pounds to Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Pleasantly Perfect's 121. The conditioner considered skipping the race because of the impost, but decided the horse was training well enough to go ahead and run anyway.

The Kentucky-bred son of Arazi -- Mari's Sheba, by Mari's Book was put through his final prep for the nine-furlong event Wednesday morning, breezing a half-mile in :48 under regular exercise rider Dana Barnes.

"It's a go," Baffert said after the work and conferring with owner Robert McNair. "We aren't real happy about the weights, but we need to get a prep in him if we're going to go to Dubai and we don't have a lot of choices for races right now.

"For some reason they just keep weighting and weighting Congaree," he added. "He's running a mile and an eighth early in the year, so if he wins, what does he do in the Big 'Cap (Santa Anita Handicap on March 6)? Last year he had to give Milwaukee Brew five pounds."

Congaree, who carried 124 pounds in last year's big Cap, finished second by a head in the 1 ¼-mile race to Milwaukee Brew, who toted 119.

Congaree hasn't started since winning the Cigar Mile (gr. I) by 5 ½ lengths on Nov. 29. He was previously fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) and second in the Kentucky Cup (gr. II). Also in 2003 he won the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I), Carter Handicap (gr. I) San Pasqual Handicap (gr. II) and the San Antonio, earning $1,608,000. Overall the chestnut has banked $3,241,400 with a record of 23-12-2-4.

Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jerry Bailey will be in town to ride Congaree.

Pleasantly Perfect will also be making his 6-year-old debut in the San Antonio. The son of Pleasant Colony drilled a bullet half-mile in :46 3/5 on Tuesday.

"We're running," trainer Richard Mandella said. "We're here to run and he couldn't be better. This horse had a lot of trouble in his life, what with that heart virus and other ailments. It's just that as he's gotten older he's gotten stronger."

Others expected for Saturday's feature are Japan Cup Dirt (gr. I) winner Fleetstreet Dancer (116 pounds), Nose the Trade (113), San Pasqual (gr. II) winner Star Cross (113), Total Impact (113) and San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Toccet (112).

Toccet has been supplemented for $5,000 to the San Antonio.

"He's doing really well," said trainer John Scanlan, who had been pointing Toccet to the Feb. 7 Strub Stakes (gr. II). "He gets in with 112 pounds and I think Congaree should be carrying 129 and I think Pleasantly Perfect should be carrying 129. But at this point we plan to run."

Mandella said Native Diver winner Olmodavor "might run" in the San Antonio or could go in the $100,000 Whirlaway Handicap (gr. III) at 1 1/16 miles at the Fair Grounds on Sunday.