08/16/2006 12:00AM

Arravale fitter than before, trainer says


DEL MAR, Calif. - Arravale finished five lengths behind Wait a While in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park, a third-place finish that was somewhat lost in the wake of the winner's impressive performance.

But Woodbine-based trainer Mac Benson was thrilled with Arravale's effort, and immediately began making plans for a return trip to California for Saturday's $400,000 Del Mar Oaks.

Arravale arrived in California on Monday, and Benson argues that she is in better form than she was at Hollywood Park.

"I ran a short horse that day," he said. "She'd gotten sick on us a little bit this spring. We asked an awful lot of her. She really ran big."

Owned by Robert Costigan, Arravale has won 3 of 5 starts. She won her first start of the year in the Alywow Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf at Woodbine on June 11.

Dismissed at 11-1 in the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks, Arravale was fifth early, moved into contention in early stretch, but faded through the final furlong. She missed second by a half-length to the Japanese invader Asahi Rising.

Benson does not regret running in the $750,000 American Oaks, even though Arravale was not fully fit. She came out of the race in good shape, as evidenced by her recent workouts, including two bullet works at Woodbine earlier this month.

"When will you get a chance to run for that kind of money?" he said. "She's a big, strong filly and we knew she wasn't 100 percent fitness-wise, but she was the type that could really take care of herself."

In the Del Mar Oaks, at 1 1/8 miles on turf, Arravale will face two stakes-winning fillies who were well-beaten in the American Oaks - Foxysox, who was sixth, and Attima, who was eighth. Attima returned to win the San Clemente Handicap here on July 29.

Other probable starters are Charming N Lovable, May Night, Sol Mi Fa, Soothsay, and Take the Ribbon.

Benson thinks the shorter distance of the Del Mar Oaks will work in favor of Arravale.

"It will certainly help us," he said. "We're really looking forward to this."

Papi Chullo to Longacres, not Pacific Classic

Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic is likely to draw a field of eight after owner Greg Norman said the longshot Papi Chullo would be pointed for the $250,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Sunday.

Papi Chullo finished third in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap here on July 22, but was disqualified and placed seventh for causing interference in the stretch.

Norman said Papi Chullo would be overmatched in the Pacific Classic in what would be his third start of 2006.

"We were hoping for a major defection," Norman said. "From a seasoning perspective, to take on that strong of a field, it would be asking too much. I think we're equal to those horses in a talent perspective. If Lava Man, Magnum, or Perfect Drift would have come out, we would have stayed."

Trained by J. Buenaventura Vargas, Papi Chullo has won 2 of 9 starts and $129,160. A 4-year-old, he has yet to win a stakes.

Post positions for the Pacific Classic were to be drawn Wednesday evening. The probable starters are Giacomo, Good Reward, Lava Man, Magnum, Perfect Drift, Preachinatthebar, Super Frolic, and Top This and That.

Magnum, who finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap and fourth in the Hollywood Gold Cup, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Wednesday. He worked alone under Alex Solis, who rides the 5-year-old Argentine-bred for the first time in the Pacific Classic.

Trained by Darrell Vienna for Herrick Racing, Magnum has one stakes win this year - the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 29.

Principle Secret bound for Belmont

Trainer Chris Paasch is so loaded with talented 2-year-old colts that Principle Secret, who won the Best Pal by three lengths on Sunday, will bypass the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day, Sept. 6, and instead head to New York for the Belmont Futurity on Sept. 23.

In his stead, Paasch said he will run both Prime Ruler, an impressive maiden winner at this meet, and Baltimore Drive, who shipped to Saratoga to defeat New York-breds in his debut.

"We're trying not to be hard on them," Paasch said. "We want to develop 3-year-olds. The Del Mar Futurity might be a little quick back [for Principle Secret]."

Principle Secret is now unbeaten in two starts. Like Baltimore Drive and Prime Ruler, he won first time out. Paasch also trains the filly She's Included, who won her second start at Del Mar and is being pointed to the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 4.

"We haven't pushed hard with our babies," Paasch said. "When we work them, we've let them go off easy and then finish."

Stewards fine Baze, Carava

The Del Mar stewards continue to penalize jockeys for excessive use of the whip. Wednesday, Tyler Baze was fined $500 for a second incident in which he broke the skin of a mount with his whip. Last weekend the stewards fined Norberto Arroyo Jr. for a similar infraction.

Trainer Jack Carava was fined $500 after one of his starters at Hollywood Park, Kreeker, the runner-up in the first race on July 3, tested in excess of the permitted level of phenylbutazone, an analgesic.

* The California Horse Racing board has discontinued an experiment of uncoupling horses with common ownership. The policy change went into effect Monday at Del Mar, following a one-page memorandum issued by CHRB executive director Ingrid Fermin last Friday. In the memo, Fermin indicated that tracks could seek permission to uncouple horses with common ownership on a case-by-case basis. Before the trial started, such a provision existed and was occasionally used in major stakes.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman