08/14/2001 11:00PM

Auction House fresh; I've Decided sharp

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DEL MAR, Calif. - An eight-month vacation and talented field stand in the way of comebacker Auction House, who will try to win the Harry F. Brubaker Handicap for the second straight year Friday. It won't be easy.

Ten entered the Brubaker, a 1 1/16-mile turf race that features the United States debut of well-regarded South African import Delta Form, the return to stakes company of much-improved I've Decided; $100,000 claim Quianlong; and class-dropper National Anthem, the 119-pound highweight.

Although Auction House has not raced since December, the 5-year-old fired fresh for trainer Bobby Frankel last May, and has worked well for his first start this year. Owned and bred by Juddmonte Farms, Auction House set the pace in four of six U.S. starts, and will find himself in a pressing role Friday.

The sharpest horse in the field is I've Decided, a 4-year-old Bertrando gelding trained by Wally Dollase who was purchased for $170,000 in the 505 Farms dispersal last year. Owned by Jess Miller Trust, I've Decided's three starts during the Hollywood Park spring meet stamped him as a potential stakes runner.

I've Decided won his comeback by a nose, racing a mile in 1:33.74; followed that with a nose loss in a 1 1/16-mile race run in 1:39.72; then won another mile race by a nose in 1:33.67. The horse I've Decided beat last time was Cagney, who returned to win the Escondido Handicap on Aug. 1.

Based on current form, I've Decided is the likeliest Brubaker winner, while an unusual import complicates matters. Trainer Jenine Sahadi admits Delta Form "is kind of an unknown" after winning six of 19, but recent success of South African imports Spook Express and Horse Chestnut lend validity to his form. Delta Form arrived in California in April, looking horrible after a 60-day quarantine in New York.

According to Sahadi, Delta Form and Forward Filly, "got off the van looking like they'd been in a concentration camp. They were emaciated, their hair was awful, they had coats on them like I'd never seen. I was horrified."

Four months later, Delta Form's coat still lacks sheen, but Sahadi said he has gained weight and has trained well. The small-sized colt will be ridden by Mike Smith, who rides Spook Express on Saturday in the Beverly D. and was the jockey on Horse Chestnut when he made his one successful U.S. start last year. Other Brubaker starters include Sarafan, Albatros, Perugino Bay, Most Likely, and Lonesome Dude.

Go to Del Mar coverage.

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