08/23/2011 4:16PM

Del Mar: Mandella gears up for big weekend

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Andrew Watkins
Champ Pegasus has not started since March.

DEL MAR, Calif - In addition to having Setsuko lined up for Sunday's Pacific Classic, trainer Richard Mandella will be involved in two other important stakes this weekend at Del Mar. He sends out turf specialist Champ Pegasus in the Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar Mile on Saturday, and has Crown of Thorns in the Grade 1, $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes at seven furlongs on Sunday’s Pacific Classic undercard.

Champ Pegasus will be making his first start since March, when he traveled to Dubai. Mandella had hoped to have him ready in time to compete on Sunday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Del Mar Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on grass.

“I wish I had a little more time to get him ready for the Handicap, but I’m interested to see how he does at a mile,” Mandella said Tuesday morning.

“We’ve been racing him long. Maybe I made a mistake. But that doesn’t happen very often,” he said, laughing.

The Del Mar Handicap, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf, is expected to have a small field, including Bourbon Bay, Celtic New Year, Imponente Purse, and Make Music for Me. In the Del Mar Mile, Champ Pegasus is expected to face Calimonco, Caracortado, Mr. Commons, and Victory Pete.

BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners »

Crown of Thorns will be facing accomplished sprinters Smiling Tiger and The Factor, as well as Camp Victory and Don Tito. He has not raced since finishing seventh in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in June.

“He’s doing well,” Mandella said. “He had a little abscess come out of a foot after the race at Churchill, and that was just enough to get in the way of him going a mile and quarter in the Pacific Classic. After missing some time, you just can’t come back and have at it.”

Barba trying for a double play

For a trainer with a small barn, Alexis Barba has some big plans this weekend. She will send out Victory Pete in the Del Mar Mile on Saturday, and Make Music for Me in the Del Mar Handicap on Sunday. Bejarano rides both.

“They’re both doing great,” Barba said Tuesday morning. “Pete worked so well on the main track the other day that we thought about the Pacific Classic. We’re not going, but I am torn. He’ll go on either surface. The Mile is just an easier spot, looking at the big picture.

“Music, he won’t have any trouble with the distance. I think that will suit him well.”