07/12/2007 11:00PM

Baffert, O'Neill among trainers with barnful of well-bred juveniles


LAS VEGAS - Lava Man, who won his third Hollywood Gold Cup in June, will go for a second consecutive victory in the Pacific Classic at the Del Mar meet, which opens July 18. But the real story of Del Mar is always the 2-year-olds.

There are many freshman sires -- those sires whose first crop are 2-year-olds -- who are expected to have a big presence at Del Mar this year, including Aldebaran, Empire Maker, Harlan's Holiday, Kafwain, Mineshaft, Proud Citizen, Sky Mesa, Van Nistelrooy, Vindication and Yankee Gentleman.

While 2-year-old racing has already started, the best juveniles typically are unveiled at Del Mar and its East Coast counterpart, Saratoga.

Bob Baffert has many juveniles who are the offspring of sires and mares that he trained. One of those sires is Vindication. Baffert unveiled Vindication at Del Mar in 2002, and he won his maiden debut and an allowance there en route to his undefeated championship season. Baffert has some well-bred juveniles by Vindication, including a $4.6 million half-brother to Roman Ruler and El Corredor named Maimonides, and a filly out of Canadian champion sprinter Apelia named More Happy. Much interest will also be centered on two colts: Sangaree, a half-brother to Congaree by Awesome Again, and Sequoyah, who is by A.P. Indy and out of BaffertOs champion juvenile filly Chilukki.

Trainer Doug O'Neill has so many 2-year-olds that there may not be enough maiden races to showcase all of them. O'Neill's best-bred baby is Grace Anatomy, a cleverly named filly by Aldebaran from a Storm Cat mare who descends from the Darby Dan female family that produced Plenty of Grace, Devil's Bag, Glorious Song, Rahy and Saint Ballado. O'Neill's juveniles include Contrary Minded, a Hennessy filly out of Preachersnightmare, who is a half-sister to stakes winner Upper Noosh. While Contrary Minded should win on dirt, this is a great pedigree for grass. O'Neill also has 2-year-olds by freshman sires Proud Citizen, Sky Mesa, Van Nistelrooy, and Yankee Gentleman. Of particular interest to Southern California players will be the debut of Uncle Don, a Lemon Drop Kid colt out of the amazing California-bred sprinter Soviet Problem.

Ron Ellis, who developed the 2004 2-year-old champion, Declan's Moon, has some well-bred juveniles with mouth-watering pedigrees, including Empire Baby, a colt from Empire Maker's first crop who is closely related to Value Plus and Werblin. Ellis also has an unnamed colt by Vindication who is a half-brother to top sprint sire Yes It's True. Among all these high-profile pedigrees, one who should not be overlooked is Rail Trip, a son of Jump Start out of a Carson City mare.

Craig Dollase has a number of well-regarded babies, including Cry and Catch Me, a Street Cry filly who was second in her recent debut at Hollywood Park, and P.S.U. Grad, a filly by Harlan's Holiday out of a half-sister to Richter Scale and Outperformance.

Dan Hendricks has an unnamed Aldebaran filly who, at $120,000, was the sale-topper at the Barretts 2-year-olds in training summer sale, for which she breezed three furlongs in 34.40.

Among David Hofmans's 2-year-olds are Mr. Zarrow, a Dynaformer colt out of a half-sister to Jules. His female family produced Northern Dancer, Danehill and Machiavellian, and this is a colt who should be equally proficient on dirt and turf. Hofmans also has Vulnerable, a Vindication filly who is a half-sister to Louisiana Derby winner Wimbledon.

Northern California-based Jerry Hollendorfer will invade Del Mar with the undefeated Imaginary Sailor, who has been impressive winning his two starts. The son of Mizzen Mast appears to have more ability than his half-brother, the stakes winner Cause to Believe. Hollendorfer also has Many Rivers, a three-quarter brother to Harlan's Holiday by Storm Cat.

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella has a bunch of juveniles who will attract attention, including Weekend Connection, a Pulpit filly who is inbred to the remarkable broodmare Lassie Dear. A.P. Indy, Summer Squall, and Lemon Drop Kid all descend from Lassie Dear. Booted, an A.P. Indy colt out of a half-sister to Furiously, disappointed in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, but should make amends at Del Mar. Dixie Chatter may hold special appeal for Mandella. He is by Dixie Union, whom Mandella trained to win the Best Pal and Norfolk Stakes and finish second in the Del Mar Futurity, and is out of a daughter of Mandella's 2-year-old filly champion Phone Chatter.

And Gary Mandella has a colt to keep an eye on, Top Gone. By Gone West, he is a half-brother to recent Lamplighter winner Top Cross. His female family traces to Paul Mellon's Glowing Tribute, the 1993 Broodmare of the Year, and this guy has a license to be effective on dirt and especially turf.

As usual, it should be an entertaining summer for 2-year-olds at Del Mar.