08/23/2008 11:00PM

Daytona trying to make up for last


DEL MAR, Calif. - The disappointment of Daytona's sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 American Handicap ended quickly for trainer Dan Hendricks.

"Throw out the last one," he said. "I take the blame. He wasn't as sharp as he should have been. I thought he could run a subpar race and beat those horses."

The American Handicap, run June 28 at Hollywood, was the worst performance of Daytona's five-race season. A 4-year-old, Daytona can regain his status as the top turf miler in California in the $400,000 Del Mar Mile on Sunday.

A win could not come at a better time. The Grade 2 Del Mar Mile is part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're Win program for the BC Mile on turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, subject to the payment of entry fees.

Earlier this year, Daytona would have been an overwhelming favorite for the Del Mar Mile, but the recent loss will lead to a higher price. He must beat a strong field that includes the 2008 stakes winners Bold Chieftain, Monzante, One Union, Stoneside, Storm Military, and Whatsthescript.

The Del Mar Mile may be a Grade 2, but it has drawn a field worthy of a Grade 1.

Daytona's best asset this year has been his ability to engage his rivals from the start, tempting anyone to take him on early. In his three victories, he led throughout the Fair Grounds and Arcadia handicaps and dueled for the lead in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. In the American Handicap, he fought for the lead but began to fade in early stretch, finishing 7 1/2 lengths behind Whatsthescript.

"I expect him to be up on the lead, and if not, a length from it," Hendricks said. "His coat is perfect and he's going into the race as good as ever."

Whatsthescript is one of several threats to Daytona. Trained by John Sadler, Whatsthescript followed the American Handicap with a second-place finish to Monzante in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap here July 28. Whatsthescript is a closer who will need a quick pace, and a little luck in running, to win the Del Mar Mile.

"We're going to have to have a trip, everybody does in this kind of race," Sadler said.

Monzante is seeking consecutive wins for the first time in his career, which includes 4 victories in 13 starts. Monzante has been running farther than a mile in recent starts, but that is not a concern to trainer Mike Mitchell.

"I think a mile is perfect for him," Mitchell said. "I like a mile with a lot of speed in front of him."

Mitchell said that Monzante should be on a two-race winning streak, having lost the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham over 1 1/4 miles on turf by a nose at Hollywood Park on June 7.

"He actually ran a good mile and a quarter in the Whittingham," Mitchell said.

Daytona could face an early threat from One Union, who led throughout to win the restricted Wickerr Handicap over a mile on turf here July 25. One Union prevailed by a nose over Awesome Gem, who starts in Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic. Noses separated the first five horses in the Wickerr.

Dark Islander and Stoneside, who were third and fifth in the Wickerr, are part of the Del Mar Mile field.