08/01/2005 11:00PM

Choctaw Nation on track to Classic

With Amy Mullins riding, Choctaw Nation works Tuesday at Del Mar, going a half-mile in 48.40 seconds in his first workout since winning the July 24 San Diego Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Jeff Mullins is excited. Not only is he atop the Del Mar trainer standings after two weeks of the meet, but he believes stable star Choctaw Nation is continuing to progress as he heads toward the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 21.

Choctaw Nation defended his title in the San Diego Handicap on July 24, and on Tuesday at Del Mar he had his first work since that victory, a half-mile in 48.40 seconds. Amy Mullins, Jeff's wife, was aboard.

"He worked good and galloped out strong," Mullins said. "Physically, he's better than he's ever been. He loves this racetrack. Amy was ecstatic when she came back."

A stretch-running gelding, Choctaw Nation finished fourth in last year's Pacific Classic. In his only other attempt at 1 1/4 miles, he finished third in this year's Dubai World Cup.

"I think he can handle the distance," Mullins said. "He just runs for a quarter-mile anyway."

Mullins said Choctaw Nation would have two more works before the Pacific Classic, which is also expected to include Lava Man, Perfect Drift, and Surf Cat.

Cassidy coming out of doldrums

This year had been a difficult one for trainer Jim Cassidy. After losing a major client, and some of his better stock, Cassidy struggled to find the winner's circle. He had just one victory heading into the Del Mar meeting. His fortunes are starting to turn around, though. Cassidy won a pair of races in recent days with fillies who are headed to stakes races next.

On Monday, the 3-year-old filly Singhalese dipped into allowance company and overpowered her rivals, winning a 1 1/16-mile grass race as she pleased. And on Saturday, Cassidy sent out the 2-year-old filly Golden Silk for a victory against maidens.

Singhalese had raced exclusively in graded stakes at 1 1/8 miles and 1 1/4 miles since arriving from Great Britain. She was coming off a third-place finish in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park. But Cassidy opted for the allowance race, rather than the one-mile San Clemente Handicap last Saturday.

"I didn't want to back her up to a mile," Cassidy said Tuesday morning. He said Singhalese would make her next start in the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Oaks at 1 1/8 miles on turf on Aug. 20.

Golden Silk was making her second start. She finished second in her debut at Hollywood Park. Cassidy said she would head straight to the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 27.

Ticker Tape, who disappointed for Cassidy in the John C. Mabee Handicap the first week of the meet, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Tuesday morning. The horse was found to have a low-grade infection last week, but Cassidy said Ticker Tape's blood count is back to normal. She could return to action Aug. 10 in the $75,000 Osunitas Handicap.

Patience pays off for Headley

Over the years, trainer Bruce Headley has repeatedly shown that time is on his side. His horses are known for their long, productive careers - witness his work with the likes of Kona Gold, Softshoe Sure Shot, and Son of a Pistol.

Cyclotron has yet to reach the level of those three top sprinters, and he may never get there. But Headley at least has given the 5-year-old horse a chance, and the fruits of that patience are starting to pay off.

On Saturday, Cyclotron made only the fourth start of his career, all of them at Del Mar. He ran twice here in 2003, once last year, and when he returned from a one-year layoff this year, he was tight enough to beat maidens going six furlongs in a swift 1:08.81.

According to Headley, Cyclotron's troubles began after his second start here in August 2003, when he bruised a front foot.

"It undermined the wall," Headley said. "We had to cut it out, but it took a year for it to grow all the way out.

"When you have a bruise, an abnormality injury, the wall's not the same as a natural wall," Headley continued. "When he came back last year, he developed a quarter crack from where the wall was unnatural. We had to patch that and let it grow out."

Headley said that the patch, in fact, has resulted in a stronger wall.

"I have to train him in bar shoes," Headley said. "But it's worth it. The way he ran Saturday is why I wait. If you know a horse can run, you have to take the time for an injury. It's worth the gamble. Sometimes that's the fate of nature, the test of patience."

Indian Breeze heads Sorrento

Indian Breeze, the unbeaten winner of the Landaluce Stakes, will shoot for her third straight victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Sorrento Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at 6 1/2 furlongs Saturday's.

Indian Breeze, trained by Adam Kitchingman, beat maidens on June 1, then won the Landaluce on July 2, both at Hollywood Park. Tyler Baze, who has ridden her in both her previous starts, has the mount.

Her rivals are expected to include Acceleration (Alex Solis the rider), Diplomat Lady (Garrett Gomez), and Tiger on the Loose (Corey Nakatani).

Diplomat Lady beat Tiger on the Loose by a nose on June 15, and then Tiger on the Loose came back to defeat maidens on July 9.

"The form of that race has held up," said Chris Paasch, the trainer of Diplomat Lady. "I'm very interested to see what happens Saturday. I think the world of this filly."

Alphabet Kisses the Hirsch highweight

Alphabet Kisses, the winner of last month's seven-furlong A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park, has been assigned top weight of 120 pounds for the Grade 2, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on Sunday.

The assignment is three pounds more than Alphabet Kisses carried when she last went two turns, in the Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap, in which she finished fourth. Hollywood Story, who finished second in the Milady with 121 pounds, gets in with 119 for the Hirsch.

Valentine Dancer is next at 117, with Girl Warrior at 115.

Alphabet Kisses, trained by Marty Jones, is owned by John Harris, who also has horses with Craig Lewis, the trainer of Valentine Dancer. Lewis joked with Harris that he was going to use a different strategy after Alphabet Kisses led from start to finish over Valentine Dancer in the A Gleam.

"Yeah, we're going to take her way, way back," Lewis said. "No, Alphabet Kisses needs to be tested. It's really going to be a strategic race."

Italian filly arriving for Del Mar Oaks

Lasika, a stakes winner based in Italy, is going to travel to Del Mar for her North American debut in the Del Mar Oaks, according to bloodstock agent Eugenio Colombo.

"She's going to race in the Oaks and then stay here," said Colombo, who helped bring Whilly, winner of the American Handicap, to the United States.

Lasika is trained and co-owned by Bruno Grizzetti.

* After two weeks of the meet, Patrick Valenzuela leads the jockey standings with 14 victories, one more than Victor Espinoza. Mullins tops the trainer standings with eight wins, one more than Bob Baffert.

* The fourth annual celebrity golf classic to benefit the California Equine Retirement Foundation will be held Aug. 9 at the Torrey Pines Championship South Course, the site of the 2008 U.S. Open. Alex Solis is the honorary host. Information is available at (951) 926-4190.