10/11/2004 12:00AM

Californians primed for Texas trek

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Horsephotos
Musical Chimes (center), a filly, outgames a pair of colts, Buckland Manor (inside) and Singletary, to win Saturday's Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - To comprehend fully the West Coast contribution to this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint and Breeders' Cup Mile, the game's most dedicated analysts will be required to digest the following nuggets of information:

The , California's final prep for the Far More Important Mile on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park, was a street fight down to the wire, with the scrappy filly Musical Chimes flanked on both sides by the capable colts Buckland Manor and Singletary. The margins were nose and nose, but it looked a lot closer than that.

The Ancient Title Handicap, a six-furlong race that has tipped a few BC Sprint winners in the past, went to a 3-year-old gelding who was claimed in November of 2003 for $62,500 and has won one race since. Pt's Grey Eagle - the steed in question - is by Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Pleasant Tap out of the Swing Till Dawn mare Hemet Eagle. He is also gray - or "grey," if you prefer - which pretty much clears up the architecture of his name.

In order to win the Oak Tree Mile, Musical Chimes had to be given one of those daring, "How did he get away with that?" rides by Kent Desormeaux. First, he floated David Flores and Singletary ever so slightly at the top of the stretch, then angled left to stuff Jose Valdivia and Tsigane like a Thanksgiving turkey before taking on Buckland Manor in the final sixteenth of a mile. To her credit, Musical Chimes was game for every move.

Neil Drysdale, true to form, is keeping all of his Breeders' Cup options open. In the 2003 Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita, Musical Chimes had a spotty trip at a distance (10 furlongs) that might be just outside her best range. The Mile makes perfect sense for Musical Chimes, but as presented on a seven-furlong course like Lone Star's, it is a race that usually requires more divine intervention than true talent, unless your name is Lure or Miesque. That is why Drysdale also has toyed with the idea of running the filly in the BC Distaff, a race he has won in the past with Princess Rooney and Hollywood Wildcat.

The only decision facing trainer Craig Dollase and owner Paul Reddam is when to transfer the $90,000 it will take to get Pt's Grey Eagle into the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Apparently, his lack of Breeders' Cup eligibility did not discourage them from the claim, which came out of a winning race at Hollywood Park for trainer Doug O'Neill.

"We'll have to ante up some money to run in the Sprint, but Paul's never been afraid to do that," Dollase said.

Reddam was represented by the 2001 Ancient Title winner, Swept Overboard, in a pair of Breeders' Cup Sprints (that's $40,000 right there). Last year, Reddam's familiar colors were carried by Elloluv to a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"You can bet some of the horses he beat today will be in there," Reddam said of Pt's Grey Eagle. "But looking at the tote board before this race, I thought maybe we should have put bags over our heads. At 30-1 on the morning line, the oddsmaker was really telling us we were in the wrong spot."

The field of eight in the Ancient Title included tough old Bluesthestandard, the well-named Hombre Rapido (he of the 43-second half), and favored Pohave, the summer star of the Hollywood Park sprint scene who was running for the first time under the banner of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stud. Pt's Grey Eagle left the gate at a fat 29-1, with 20-year-old Alex Bisono aboard in his Grade 1 stakes debut.

"You always wonder, 'What do they know that I don't?' " Reddam said.

On this particular day, the answer was "absolutely nothing," as indicated by the $61.60 payoff glowing on the tote board behind him. Pt's Grey Eagle now sports a record of three wins and four seconds in seven sprints on dirt, with only his second-place finish in the Foothill Stakes at the L.A. County Fair requiring explanation.

"You've got to throw that race out," Reddam said. "He had a ton of trouble that day. And his winning race at Del Mar was good enough to take a shot here."

Dollase elaborated.

"You can't knock his consistency," the trainer said. "He's an improving 3-year-old who gets a break in the weights, and they can be dangerous this time of year. That worked out pretty good for me a few years ago with Reraise."

Reraise, also a gelding, had run for a maiden $62,500 as a 2-year-old before being acquired by a group of Dollase clients. In 1998, at 3, and after only six lifetime starts, he jumped up to win the Kentucky Cup Sprint and then the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs as a $120,000 supplemental nominee. And while such parallels will mean squat when they line up in the gate at Lone Star, it never hurts to have a little history on your side.