08/04/2011 3:44PM

Del Mar: Preamble headed to a stakes

Shigeki Kikkawa
Preamble won three races at the Santa Anita meeting but did not start at the Hollywood meet.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Preamble stretched his winning streak to four races in an optional claimer at Del Mar on Wednesday, leading trainer Richard Mandella to ponder which race best suits the colt for his stakes debut in the next month.

The choices range from the highly ambitious – such as the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 28 – to two more logical races – the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes over seven furlongs on Aug. 28 or the restricted $85,000 Windy Sands Handicap over a mile on Sept. 3.

“It gives us a chance to be excited,” Mandella said.

On Thursday morning, Mandella was leaning toward the Windy Sands, hoping to use the race as a prep for the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes at the Santa Anita autumn meeting in October. “That would work,” he said. “I would give a little look to the Pacific Classic.”

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Preamble closed on the inside through the stretch of Wednesday’s second race to catch Indian Firewater in the final strides and win the seven-furlong race by a head. Indian Firewater won the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita in January.

Preamble, a 4-year-old colt by Mr. Greeley, won a maiden race and an optional claimer and an allowance race during the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, but did not start at Hollywood Park. Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Preamble has won 4 of 6 starts and $149,440.

The Pat O’Brien Stakes will include the multiple Grade 1 winner Smiling Tiger, who was second to Euroears in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes last weekend. It is unclear whether Euroears will start in the Pat O’Brien, trainer Bob Baffert said.

“I don’t know what I’ll do with him,” Baffert said. “I’ll give him a week off. I’ll brag on him.”

Creative Cause will need top effort

Trainer Mike Harrington’s dry sense of humor surfaced on Thursday morning when he assessed the debut win of Creative Cause, who starts in Sunday’s $150,000 Best Pal Stakes.

“He could have won easier, by farther, and set a track record,” Harrington said. “He ran good.”

Creative Cause won his debut by 4 3/4 lengths at Hollywood Park on July 16, finishing five furlongs in 56.90 seconds.

The well-bred Creative Cause will need another big performance in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes, which is run over 6 1/2 furlongs for 2-year-olds and is a key prep for the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity over seven furlongs on Sept. 7.

Creative Cause is by top stallion Giant’s Causeway and is out of Dream of Summer, a multiple stakes winner and millionaire in the early 2000’s. Now owned by Heinz Steinmann, Creative Cause was bought for $135,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale by pinhooker Becky Thomas, and bought privately by Steinmann earlier this year.

Harrington did not expect Creative Cause to be ready by midsummer.

“I bought three horses privately, and the other two were pretty forward,” Harrington said. “He moved forward on his own, and pretty soon I was forced to run him.”

The Best Pal Stakes is expected to include Brigand and Night Tide, the second- and third-place finishers in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 17; Galex and Mighty Monsoon, who were second and third in the Everett Nevin Alameda County Stakes at Pleasanton on July 9; Curfew Tower, second in the Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs on July 16; and the maiden race winner I’ll Have Another.

◗The Sunday program also features a match race between Chantal Sutherland and Mike Smith, who were once engaged to be married. Billed as the Battle of the Exes, the one-mile race will be the fourth race on a 10-race program.

◗ Saturday’s $2 head-to-head wager in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Stakes is St Trinians versus Ultra Blend. The bet features a 10-percent takeout and is new at Del Mar this year.