08/19/2009 11:00PM

April Pride restarts campaign in stakes

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The last time trainer Jim Cassidy was saddling April Pride for a race, she violently kicked the back of the stall where she was being saddled and was scratched. When she returns to the races in the $85,000 Sandy Blue Handicap on Friday at Del Mar, Cassidy is hoping she saves her best kick for the race.

"She kicked the wall so hard they told me they thought a gun went off," Cassidy said.

April Pride remained in Kentucky after that mishap and then came back to California this summer. She has an abbreviated work tab heading into the Sandy Blue, but Cassidy is eager to get her back to the races.

"Her last work was fabulous," Cassidy said of a six-furlong drill in 1:12.60 on Aug. 14. "I'd like to have had the chance to work her one or two more times, but we've got to get going. I'd like to run her here and then maybe go to Arlington for the Pucker Up."

April Pride ran eight times in Europe last year before being privately purchased and transferred to Cassidy. Whether it was the long campaign, the ship, or the competition, April Pride was flat in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, finishing 11th of 12.

Two months later, though, freshened and eager, she finished second in the Blue Norther and then was second in an allowance race before a sharp victory in the China Doll in March.

"Once she got acclimated, she ran great," Cassidy said.

Then it was off to Kentucky.

Had she not had a setback there, April Pride likely would have been pointing to the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on Saturday, but there was no time to get her ready for an assignment that difficult following the layoff.

Not that the Sandy Blue, at one mile on turf for 3-year-old fillies, came up easy. It is usually a consolation prize for Del Mar Oaks B-listers, but this year's Sandy Blue is deep. It includes Hermione's Magic, an impressive winner in her U.S. debut here Aug. 5; stakes winner Excessive Blend; and French import Ciel Rouge, fresh off the plane for trainer Neil Drysdale.

Excessive Blend is stretching back out and returning to turf after winning the seven-furlong Fleet Treat Stakes on the main track July 25.

"I was very excited about her last race. She showed a little more focus," said Carla Gaines, who trains Excessive Blend. "She's still pretty green."