Led by `Pleasantly,' Mandella's Cup full four times over

14-1 horse takes Classic

trainer's scores set record

October 26, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ARCADIA, Calif. - Richard Mandella soared upon the wings of four fleet horses into Breeders' Cup lore yesterday.

The 53-year-old Californian trained four winners of the eight Breeders' Cup races at smoky, sweltering Santa Anita Park, including the unheralded Pleasantly Perfect in the marquee race, the Breeders' Cup Classic. No trainer had ever saddled as many Breeders' Cup winners on the same day.

Ten years ago, when the Breeders' Cup was last held at Santa Anita in Southern California, Mandella won two Breeders' Cup races and two stakes on the undercard. That was his greatest Breeders' Cup moment until yesterday.

"I don't know how to describe it," Mandella said. "If I'd have known I was going to win four [in 1993], I would have enjoyed the day. Instead, I was in shock. By the time I realized what had happened and could have enjoyed it, everybody'd gone home.

"It's the same today. I never thought lightning would strike twice. But it struck harder."

For the 51,648 patrons who flocked to beautiful Santa Anita, it wasn't lightning but heat and smoke that inflamed the senses. Temperatures reached 99 degrees after sizzling in the 90s all week. A haze of smoke blanketed the track, obscuring the view of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains, as brush fires raged about 30 miles to the east.

Neither heat nor smoke hindered Mandella's horses, who found the winner's circle with historic frequency. They captured both races for 2-year-olds (Halfbridled the $1 million Juvenile Fillies, Action This Day the $1.5 million Juvenile).

The Mandella-trained Johar salvaged a shred of dignity for American horses in the grass races by sharing victory in the $2 million Turf with the Irish colt High Chapparal, who won the race last year. They produced the first dead heat in Breeders' Cup history. European horses won the other two turf stakes.

And at the end of a steamy, but safe, Breeders' Cup afternoon - the 20th since the series began in 1984 - Pleasantly Perfect outran the more famous and highly regarded to win the $4 million Classic. That $2,080,000 winner's check swelled the bankroll of Mandella horses for the day to $4,564,040, by far a Breeders' Cup record.

Victimized by ailments throughout his career, the 5-year-old Pleasantly Perfect was little valued by bettors, who sent him to post at 14-1 odds. Only three horses in the 10-horse field were higher.

As Medaglia d'Oro, the favorite, was bumped by Congaree at the break, Pleasantly Perfect dropped leisurely into eighth. That proved a blessing, ensuring that he avoided the overeager Funny Cide in the first turn.

Racing for the first time in 83 days, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner wouldn't relax, even under the calming touch of jockey Julie Krone. He surged wide into the first turn, bumping Perfect Drift who, in turn, bumped Ten Most Wanted. Neither horse threatened after that. Funny Cide ended up ninth, beating only Volponi, last year's Classic winner.

"This horse doesn't like hot weather," said Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide. "We knew that, but we took our shot. It was a lot to ask for him to face older horses in this spot after a long layoff."

Meanwhile, Pleasantly Perfect lingered far back until the final turn, when he swept past tiring horses and took aim on the leaders - Congaree, Medaglia d'Oro and Hold That Tiger. Jockey Alex Solis swung Pleasantly Perfect to the outside and plotted a path to the wire. The big, long-striding horse gobbled up ground and charged impressively to a 1 1/2 -length victory.

He paid $30.40 to win and completed the 1 1/4 miles in 1 minute, 59.88 seconds. The victory was the sixth in 13 races for the horse whose afflictions limited his career to one race before he turned 4 and three races this year before the Breeders' Cup.

He has endured a virus that caused inflammation of the heart, a respiratory ailment, foot problems and assorted minor injuries. Pleasantly Perfect's greatest successes before the Breeders' Cup were victories this year and last in the Grade II Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita, his home base.

"Once he got healthy enough to train, we thought we had a really good horse," Mandella said.

Medaglia d'Oro overcame his troubled start to finish second in the Classic as the 5-2 favorite, one of three favorites trained by Bobby Frankel who failed to win. Frankel's eight Breeders' Cup starters, all highly regarded, finished second, fourth (twice), fifth, sixth, eighth (twice) and 13th.

After the Classic, the last of the disappointments, Frankel said: "I don't have anything to say right now."

Breeders' Cup winners

Distaff: Adoration

Juvenile Fillies: Halfbridled

Mile: Six Perfections

Sprint: Cajun Beat

Filly/Mare Turf: Islington

Juvenile: Action This Day

Turf: High Chaparral and Johar (dead heat)

Classic: Pleasantly Perfect

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