08/29/2003 11:00PM

Crazy Ensign real late bloomer


DEL MAR, Calif. - Crazy Ensign ran the best race of her U.S. career in Friday's $76,525 Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers Handicap at Del Mar. She finished 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.07, lowering the course record by .08 and winning by 6 1/2 lengths.

The minor handicap marked the first time she has won consecutive races since the spring of 1999, when she was racing in Argentina.

Trainer Richard Mandella cannot fully explain her newfound consistency. He is not very worried about it, either.

"For some reason, she just turned around this summer," Mandella said.

The results have left Mandella considering the $500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Santa Anita on Sept. 28 for Crazy Ensign.

A 7-year-old, Crazy Ensign is not nominated for the Breeders' Cup, and is unlikely to be supplemented to the Filly and Mare Turf Oct. 25.

Crazy Ensign appears to be racing at a higher level than at any point since she arrived in the U.S., in late 2000. In Argentina, she was the a multiple Group 1 winner, but in this country her only stakes win prior to Friday's race came in the Miss America Handicap at Bay Meadows in April 2002.

After winning a one-mile allowance race on July 31 by two lengths, Crazy Ensign was a heavy favorite against a modest field on Friday.

Ridden by Alex Solis, Crazy Ensign was fifth for the first mile. Solis moved her closer to pacesetter Christel Flame at the end of the backstretch, and urged Crazy Ensign to the lead before reaching the stretch.

"I got a good position going into the first turn and after that I just had to be patient," Solis said. "I got out in the clear and she did the rest."

Makam, a maiden winner in her last start, finished second at 31-1, two lengths in front of Tifonica in the field of nine fillies and mares.

Crazy Ensign's final time marked the fifth course record on the turf course at this meeting. Earlier, marks were set over five furlongs, one mile, 1 1/16 miles and 1 1/8 miles.

Eight probable for Del Mar Derby

Following Monday's program, there are only seven days of racing remaining at Del Mar and each day includes at least one stakes. The meeting ends on Sept. 10.

The richest race of the final week is the $300,000 Del Mar Derby over 1 1/8 miles on turf. As of Saturday, a field of eight was probable - Bis Repetitas, Californian, Devious Boy, Fairly Ransom, Outta Here, Senor Swinger, Singletary, and Sweet Return. Singletary won the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap on Aug. 16.

There are two other Grade 2 stakes in the closing days - next Sunday's $200,000 Palomar Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on turf and the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity over seven furlongs on closing day.

The Palomar is unlikely to feature the millionaire Affluent, who is battling a bruised foot, according to trainer Ron McAnally. She was third in the A Gleam Handicap in early July in her most recent start.

Next Sunday's card includes a match race over 1 1/16 miles between top jockeys Julie Krone and Patrick Valenzuela. Through Friday, Valenzuela and Krone were one-two in the standings, with Valenzuela leading, 39-33.

Wednesday's top race is the $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes for California-bred 2-year-old fillies over six furlongs. Dirty Diana, the winner of the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes on July 25, will be a heavy favorite against a field expected to include Alpenwald, Blowing Bartok, Nicole and Ben, She's Gottogetaway, and Xpress Xcess.

Fast work for Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico, a top candidate for the Futurity, worked five furlongs in 58 seconds on Saturday, the second fastest of 37 recorded works at the distance. Trained by Eoin Harty for Darley Stud Management, Gulf of Mexico won a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs by 4 1/2 lengths on Aug. 18.

In the Futurity, Gulf of Mexico will face Perfect Moon, the winner of the Best Pal Stakes Aug. 17, and Cooperation, a maiden winner trained by Bob Baffert.

Harty's top filly, Tizdubai, worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Santa Anita on Saturday. Tizdubai won the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 9, but was held out of Saturday's Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante in favor of the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Sept. 28.

Garcia moving to East Coast

Jockey Matt Garcia, who has ridden one winner at Del Mar this summer, is relocating to the East Coast after Monday's program.

Garcia, 33, will ride for trainer Mark Shuman and owner Michael Gill.

Garcia has struggled to find mounts at this meeting. He missed eight days of racing earlier at this meeting for suspensions after being disqualified in two races on Aug. 4.

Last year, Garcia was the regular rider of Buffythecenterfold, the winner of the Sorrento and Landaluce Stakes.

Ocean Terrace now in Baffert's barn

Ocean Terrace, who won the El Camino Real Derby in March, has been transferred from trainer Bob Hess Jr. to Bob Baffert.

Ocean Terrace has not started since he was eased in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in April. A month later, owners Fog City Stable announced that Ocean Terrace was retired but he resumed training with Hess in July.

Ocean Terrace, 3, has won 3 of 5 starts and $160,400.

Nakatani rides in Pennsylvania Derby

Jockey Corey Nakatani has been booked to ride Domestic Dispute in the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Monday. Trained by Paddy Gallagher, Domestic Dispute finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby, his first start for owners David Bienstock and Chuck Winner.

Earlier this year, Domestic Dispute won the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita while trained by Bob Baffert.