08/19/2011 4:24PM

Del Mar: Irish Gypsy still has something to prove


DEL MAR, Calif. - Irish Gypsy holds an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs in November, courtesy of a victory in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park last month.

Her trainer is not sold on whether she belongs in that field.

"She'll have to step it up," Bob Baffert said. "I'm not sure."

Baffert and owners Mike Pegram and Hill 'n' Dale Equine Holdings will know more about Irish Gypsy's status in the division when she seeks her fourth stakes win of 2011 in Sunday's $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap at Del Mar.

Irish Gypsy followed her win in the A Gleam with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 7, a loss that Baffert blamed on an inside post and a wet track.

"She was in the 1 hole and the mud, and it was a tough race for her," Baffert said. "If I hadn't run there, I'd feel better."

Baffert was more encouraged when Irish Gypsy worked three furlongs in 35.80 seconds at Del Mar on last Tuesday.

"She's back and worked well, and that's why I put her in there," he said of the Rancho Bernardo.

Irish Gypsy carries top weight of 121 pounds, and will be favored. Martin Garcia, who was aboard for wins in the A Gleam, Valid Expectations Stakes, and Desert Stormer Handicap earlier this year, retains the mount.

Mildly Offensive, fourth in the A Gleam, is adding blinkers for the Rancho Bernardo. The winner of the Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita in March, Mildly Offensive is one of two 3-year-old fillies in the field of seven. California Nectar, the winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies in January, makes her stakes debut against older fillies and mares.

The other four in the field - Jet Blue Girl, Saanneen, She's Cheeky, and Tanda - have not won a stakes this year.

Mildly Offensive has shown speed in her four starts, but trainer Carla Gaines said the addition of blinkers could make Mildly Offensive more patient in the Rancho Bernardo, which is run over 6 1/2 furlongs.

"She seems to be more relaxed in her gallops and breezes with blinkers," Gaines said. "I know that sounds weird, but she's been happy in the mornings. It's an experiment, and I'll try it."

After winning her first two starts with little difficulty, Mildly Offensive had a spring campaign disrupted by illness in April. She was fourth in the Manhattan Beach Stakes on turf in May. Jockey Rafael Bejarano told Gaines that the filly did not like the turf in that race. In the A Gleam, Mildly Offensive was just behind the leaders for the first half-mile and was beaten 3 3/4 lengths by Irish Gypsy.

"You could make a million excuses," Gaines said. "She was on the lead when horses came to her inside and her outside. She threw her head in the air. We'd had a couple of races where she'd never really been in any competition."

Trainer Peter Eurton starts Jet Blue Girl and She's Cheeky, but may scratch Jet Blue Girl, he said on Friday. She's Cheeky has placed in several stakes, and is seeking her first stakes win.

"Maybe I can get a win," he said. "She's got a lot of black type but no wins."