07/09/2008 11:00PM

2-Year-Olds: Scouting Report

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The installation of Polytrack prior to the 2007 Del Mar season forced handicappers to reconsider certain "rules." Whereas early pace runners often dominated on dirt at Del Mar, horses with more stamina thrived over the new synthetic surface. The era of automatic gate-to-wire winners quickly dissipated, and the Polytrack final times were extremely slow by Southern California standards.

Horse Greeley won the 2006 Del Mar Futurity, the definitive race for juvenile colts at the meet, with a seven-furlong clocking of 1:22.93. Georgie Boy stopped the timer in the 2007 renewal in 1:25.34, more than two seconds behind the previous slowest time (Souvenir Copy, 1:23.10) since the race was switched to seven-eighths in 1994.

Point Ashley prevailed in the 2006 Del Mar Debutante, the filly counterpart to the Futurity, with a final time of 1:23.34. Set Play won the inaugural Polytrack Debutante in 1:26.79. It will be interesting to see if juveniles with more route-oriented pedigrees combined with a strong racetrack and work foundation have greater success than their more precociously bred peers this season.

Horsemen had to alter their training strategies in response to the surface. Bob Baffert, a force with juvenile first-time starters at Del Mar over the last four years (9 winners from 46 runners), split his string between Del Mar and Saratoga in 2007, and only recorded one 2-year-old debut winner during the 2007 Del Mar meet. All indications are that Baffert will repeat those tactics in 2008, and Baffert's babies should be respected on both coasts when they make their racetrack debuts.

Richard Mandella sent out some good 2-year-olds at Del Mar last year, including 9-1 debut winner Kanan Dume for owner B. Wayne Hughes. Mandella is 3 for 23 over the past four years with juvenile debut runners, but may get off to a slower start than usual this season.

"We've had a virus go through the barn," said Mandella. "We may be a little further back than usual."

One of Mandella's promising 2-year-olds is Exile, a son of Speightstown out of Grade 3 turf winner Ruff. Exile was purchased by Hughes for $150,000 at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale.

Circle Diamond, a colt by Dixie Union out of the Deputy Minister mare Nicarola Catrola, boasts a strong family tree. His third dam is Dahlia, the champion grass horse of 1974.

Calle Vista is bred to run all day. A member of the first crop by Pleasantly Perfect, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic for Mandella, Calle Vista is out of Grade 1 winner Campagnarde, the dam of Grade 2 winners Lovely Rafaela and Rize.

Mandella also mentioned Meteore, a Pulpit colt out of Meteor Miracle, by Twining. Meteor Miracle was a stakes-winning sprinter during her career, and is a half-sister to Grade 1 winners A Phenomenon and Seattle Meteor.

The Christopher Paasch barn looks loaded with 2-year-old talent. The Paasch-trained Magic Myth won first out at Del Mar last season at 19-1 odds, and Paasch already has Cosmic Queen ready for graded races in 2008. A $320,000 purchase earlier this year, Cosmic Queen is a daughter of Stormy Atlantic, and won her debut in flashy style going 4 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park on May 15. In her first start against winners, she finished a good third in the Landaluce Stakes.

Paasch also thinks highly of Stardom Bound, a gray Tapit filly out of My White Corvette, by Tarr Road.

"She's a wonderful filly," said Paasch. "We're expecting big things."

Stardom Bound was purchased for $375,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. March sale, and her dam won her debut at 2 as well as the Cimarron Stakes at Remington Park that season.

Paasch also may have a nice colt in Lahcotah. Named for the dictionary of the Sioux language, Lahcotah was purchased by Paasch for $150,000 at OBS in March, and is a son of 2-year-old champion Johannesburg out of August Moon Dancer, by Green Dancer.

While John Sadler is only 1 for 14 with juvenile debut runners at Del Mar over the last four years, he is loaded for this year's 2-year-old filly races. Emmy Darling earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure for her win in Hollywood's Landaluce Stakes, and the $260,000 OBS March juvenile purchase will likely be one of the public choices in races like the Sorrento Stakes and Del Mar Debutante.

Also pointing for those two graded stakes is Evita Argentina, a daughter of Candy Ride who won first out at Hollywood for Sadler on June 25. Evita Argentina hails from the family of such top sprinters as Trippi and Appealing Skier.

Sadler also has Bellingham, a son of Empire Maker out of Belleski, who was a two-time winner of the Grade 3 Senator Ken Maddy Handicap. Handicappers may also want to keep an eye out for Awesome Rich, a $440,000 yearling purchase by Lion Heart out of a winning half-sister to Grade 3 sprint winner Here's Zealous.

Dan Hendricks sent out first-time starter Champagne Miss to a runner-up finish in last year's Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar, and he has a few encouraging babies in his barn.

"We have some better breeding this year," said Hendricks. "It should be fun."

Dreamalong is a Rahy filly who sold for $130,000 as a yearling. A half-sister to the multiple Grade 2-placed turf performer Lavender Sky, Dreamalong hails from the female family of stalwart fillies Gorgeous and Seaside Attraction.

Mr. Rod, a son of Scrimshaw out of the multiple-stakes-placed Clever Trick mare Call Her Clever, was purchased by longtime Hendricks patron Cecil Peacock for $45,000 at the Barretts May sale.

Peacock also bought Imforeal, an In Excess half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Brother Derek, for $310,000 at last yearOs Keeneland September yearling sale.

Sense of Honor, an Awesome Again colt purchased for $200,000 at the Adena Springs

2-year-old sale in March, is expected to make his debut later in the meet. The dam, Real Rose (by Skip Trial), is a half-sister to Grade 2 route winner Prize Fight.

Other trainers to watch at the Del Mar meet include Wesley Ward and Doug O'Neill. Ward has won with 5 of his last 13 Del Mar firsters, good for a $2.66 ROI. O'Neill has sent out six juvenile debut winners at Del Mar over the past four seasons.

Pedigree buffs may want to watch for progeny of Aldebaran, Bartok, Benchmark, Cryptoclearance, Decarchy, Distorted Humor, El Corredor, French Deputy, Grand Slam, Harlan's Holiday, Indian Charlie, In Excess, Johannesburg, Lit de Justice, Littleexpectations, Malibu Moon, Misbah, Mr. Greeley, Monarchos, More Than Ready, Old Topper, Orientate, Richter Scale, Silver Charm, Street Cry, Tiznow, Tribal Rule, Unusual Heat, Vindication, and Yankee Gentleman.