08/08/2008 11:00PM

Bahama Mama goes long again

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DEL MAR, Calif. – In the first half of the year, Bahama Mama was campaigned exclusively in turf sprints. For the second half of 2008, the game plan has changed. She is running in two-turn races, and seems to be thriving.

After finishing a game third in the restricted Osunitas Handicap at Del Mar on July 19, Bahama Mama is the likely favorite in an optional claimer over a mile on turf in Monday’s second race at Del Mar.

The Osunitas at 1 1/16 miles on turf was the longest race of Bahama Mama’s 21-race career, and trainer Jim Cassidy thinks she will be even more effective at Monday’s slightly shorter distance.

“It’s perfect for me,” he said. “This will be the second time she’s run a mile or farther” in the United States.

In Europe in 2007, Bahama Mama finished third in the German 1000 Guineas over a mile on turf. A majority of her races have been between five and 6 1/2 furlongs. Cassidy considered running her in the $80,000 Daisycutter Handicap over five furlongs on turf on Sept. 3, but said he wants to see her win around two turns. She is expected to return to sprints on Santa Anita’s hillside turf course later this year.

In Monday’s race, Bahama Mama has just four rivals. Chocolate Lava, who won two consecutive allowance races on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park in June, runs on turf for the first time since May 2007. Trainer John Sadler said he wanted to run Chocolate Lava in an allowance race on the main track last week, but that the race did not fill.

“This is the only alternative,” Sadler said.

He plans to use Monday’s race as a prep for the Adoration Handicap, a one-mile main-track race here on Aug. 28.

Chocolate Lava is likely to have the early lead over Bahama Mama, which is fine with Cassidy. Bahama Mama is quick enough to lead – she led to the final furlong of the Osunitas – but Cassidy insists she is not one-dimensional.

“She’ll rate off of [Chocolate Lava] with no problem,” Cassidy said.

Monday’s race will be the American debut of Peregian, an Australian-bred 5-year-old mare trained by Neil Drysdale. In Australia, Peregian won 4 of 11 starts, with three of the wins coming in handicaps ranging from six furlongs to a mile. She has not started since finishing third in a handicap in February.

Private Banking and Gula Gold complete the field.