Pleasantly Perfect, Perfect Drift, Birdstone and Ghostzapper will forego prep races and move straight to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. They will not pass go. They will not collect $200.
With some two months or more from their last race until the Classic on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park, times have changed since great horses raced and won major events twice in the same week, as Citation did in 1948, when he took the Derby Trial on a Tuesday and came back five days later to win the Kentucky Derby, or in 1982 when Conquistador Cielo won the Met Mile on Memorial Day and returned in a week to win the mile and a half Belmont Stakes by 14 lengths.
Jimmy Jones and Woody Stephens are long gone, but there are still a few trainers around who know which end of a horse eats.
One is Richard Mandella, who set the racing world on its ear a year ago when he won a record four Breeders’ Cup races in one day at Santa Anita: the Juvenile Fillies with Halfbridled, the Juvenile with Action This Day, a share of the Turf with Johar, who dead-heated with High Chaparral, and the Classic with Pleasantly Perfect.
Pleasantly Perfect, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Pleasant Colony, has won nine of 17 starts for the Diamond A Racing Corporation of Texan Jim Ford, with earnings $7,349,880.
In a well-managed career that has been curtailed by ailments, he raced only four times in 2003, winning twice, and this year has run four times, winning three, including the $6 million Dubai World Cup and the $1 million Pacific Classic. He will retire to stud after this campaign.
Last year Pleasantly Perfect won the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 25, three weeks after he won the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap for the second straight year. This year, he will have to win the Classic without benefit of a race in nine weeks. The difference? Last year, he didn’t risk wearying jet lag by flying halfway around the world and back to run in Dubai.
"I think this is better for him," Mandella said, explaining his reason for passing the Goodwood. "I got two races in him (second in the San Diego Handicap on Aug. 1 after his victory in the Dubai World Cup last March 27, and a win in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 22). I am conscious of the fact that I took him to Dubai and I think you’ve got to be careful with a horse after you do that not to overdo it."
Mandella should know. To date, he’s run seven horses at Nad Al Sheba race course and accumulated tens of thousands of frequent flyer mileage with six trips to Dubai, a junket that consumes a full day from start to finish, including a stopover in London. "If you’re lucky you get there in 24 hours," Mandella said.
"Pleasantly Perfect trained up to the Dubai Cup after not running for about two months (after winning the San Antonio Handicap by four lengths on Jan. 31) and ran the race of his life (in Dubai, beating Medaglia d’Oro by three-quarters of a length as each carried 126 pounds going a mile and a quarter), so I can’t really see why running after a layoff will do any harm, and I couldn’t see any gain in winning the Goodwood Handicap again," Mandella said. "I’d love to have won it again, but if it had compromised my chances in the Breeders’ Cup, it wouldn’t have been worth the risk."
In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Meanwhile, Mandella is confident world traveler Pleasantly Perfect can run well at Lone Star, where he has never raced.
"He’s handled everything else," Mandella said. "I haven’t found a track he didn’t like. I just want to have him in the best shape I can."
The homestretch:Alex Solis, minus a cumbersome neck brace he had been burdened with for nearly three months, hopes to resume riding in three to five months. The 40-year-old jockey suffered a broken vertebra, broken ribs and a punctured lung in a spill at Del Mar on July 23. He had a rod inserted into his spinal column to support the vertebra.
"I have an MRI scheduled for Oct. 25 and we’ll go from there," Solis said. "I’m doing a lot of walking and I’m stretching the muscles where the incision was made (under his shoulder area) to break the soft tissue and make sure they loosen up to get blood flowing there. The doctors say it’s more than likely I’ll be back between December and February, but everybody heals differently. It could have been worse. You’ve got to look at the bright side. I got to spend the whole summer with my kids at the beach."
”¡ Don’t look for Patrick Valenzuela to resume riding any time soon. His appeal for an injunction against his current suspension was denied by a Los Angeles County Court judge.