`Perfect' has to be at his peak to repeat

Last year's Classic winner confronts formidable field

Breeders' Cup notebook

Horse Racing

October 28, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- When Pleasantly Perfect attempts to become the second horse to win back-to-back Breeders' Cup Classics, he will face two horses undefeated in 2004 (Ghostzapper and Roses in May), this year's Belmont and Travers winner (Birdstone), last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner (Funny Cide) and one of the greatest racing mares of all-time (Azeri).

The Classic and seven other Breeders' Cup races took shape yesterday when post positions were drawn for the $14.65 million extravaganza Saturday at Lone Star Park near Dallas. Pleasantly Perfect drew post 12 and was deemed the Classic's 5-2 morning-line favorite.

The powerful closer will also attempt to become the first horse to couple a win in the $6 million Dubai World Cup, the richest race in the world, with a win the same year in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the richest race in North America.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Sports section stated incorrectly that the St. Louis Cardinals won Game 7 of the 1967 World Series in St. Louis. In fact, the Cardinals won Game 7 in Boston. The Sun regrets the error. The Sun regrets the error.

"I can't say enough about him," said Richard Mandella, his trainer. "He's one of the great ones."

Pleasantly Perfect has raced only 17 times despite his relatively advanced age. He's a 6-year-old son of Wild Rush who overcame a serious heart ailment.

"We never gave up on him, and we gave him every chance," Mandella said. "But deep down I thought it'd be a miracle if he could ever make it back."

Pleasantly Perfect failed to blossom as a 2-year-old being developed for the races. His handlers thought he was fat and lazy. But after his first race for Mandella in 2001 -- a race the 3-year-old couldn't even finish -- a veterinarian discovered a virus around Pleasantly Perfect's heart.

The horse spent most of the rest of that year on a farm. He received some anti-inflammatory drugs, but mainly nature took its course and cured the virus, Mandella said.

"When he came back as a 4-year-old," the trainer said, "you could begin to see the great horse we always thought was there."

Pleasantly Perfect has won nine races and earned $7,349,880. His appointment calendar includes only two more races, Mandella said -- the Classic and a $3 million race Nov. 28 in Japan. If he wins both, he'll surpass Cigar as North America's richest thoroughbred.

Pleasantly Perfect will begin his career as a stallion next year at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky.

Here are the other Breeders' Cup morning-line favorites and their post positions:

Ashado, post 1, is 7-2 in the Distaff; Sweet Catomine, post 10, is 5-2 in the Juvenile Fillies; Nothing to Lose, post 12, is 7-2 in the Mile; Speightstown, post 2, is 3-1 in the Sprint; Ouija Board, post 5, is 8-5 in the Filly and Mare Turf; Roman Ruler, post 2, is 8-5 in the Juvenile, and Kitten's Joy, post 4, is even money in the Turf.

No outside objection

Mr O'Brien, the Maryland turf specialist, drew post 14 in the Mile. Despite that, he attracted an 8-1 morning line that reaffirmed his place among the prime contenders.

Robin Graham, his trainer, said there's good and bad in every post position. Mr O'Brien won his last race, the Grade II Kelso Handicap at Belmont, out of post 1, which Graham disdained.

"He sits off the pace, anyway," Graham said of Mr O'Brien's outside starting spot. "This way, he'll just let the speed go. He'll be able to run his race."

Doesn't like odds

The Pimlico-based Abbondanza drew post 6 in the Sprint, and his 50-1 morning-line drew Tim Tullock's ire. Tullock, who trains the 3-year-old colt, said he believes the speedster has a much better chance than that.

Tullock said Abbondanza's Virginia owner, Michael Veltzen, an international businessman, named the horse after the Italian word for "abundance" or "plenty." Abbondanza has won four of nine races, including the Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park in his last outing -- in 1 minute, 8 seconds for six furlongs.

"That was a fast racetrack," Tullock said. "But you go 1:08 over anything and you're doing something. ... We think we have a fast-enough horse to be here. These opportunities don't come up very often."

Tullock said he feels even better about Abbondanza's chances since arriving Sunday at Lone Star and assessing the competition. "If you've got speed, you've got a chance," Tullock said. "It's a tough race, but it should be. It's the Breeders' Cup Sprint, right?"

At a glance

What: 21st Breeders' Cup

When: Saturday

Where: Lone Star Park, Grand Prairie, Texas

Purses: $14.65 million for eight Grade I races

First race: $2 million Distaff, 1:20 p.m.

Headliner: $4 million Classic, 5:35 p.m.

TV: Chs. 11, 4, 1-6 p.m.

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