08/31/2010 10:43AM

Del Mar sprint just right for Separate Forest


DEL MAR, Calif. – Separate Forest is fast. Real fast. So fast that trainer Richard Mandella was concerned that trying to go six furlongs on Polytrack might be too challenging for her debut. So he set about trying to find a five-furlong turf sprint for maidens earlier this meet at Del Mar, and when it came up, he entered her.

The race did not fill.

So Mandella, having a horse sitting on ready, sent Separate Forest up north to Santa Rosa, not the usual method of operation for him. Even though the race was on dirt, the distance, 5 1/2 furlongs, was suitable.

“I thought she’d run well,” Mandella said. “I didn’t think she’d run that well.”

Separate Forest, 3, cruised home an 11-length winner in that Aug. 14 maiden race while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 94. Most significantly, it immediately got her out of the maiden ranks. And at Del Mar, it’s a lot easier to find a five-furlong race on turf for an allowance horse than a maiden.

On Thursday, at long last, Mandella has Separate Forest in the spot he believes will be ideal. She heads the day’s featured seventh race, a first-level allowance at five furlongs on turf.

“I think that’s where she wants to be,” Mandella said.

Separate Forest will need to put that speed to good use, because she has drawn the rail. She reunites Mandella and jockey Joel Rosario, who teamed to win the Del Mar Handicap on Sunday with Champ Pegasus. Gerald Ford’s Diamond A Racing Corp., a co-owner and co-breeder of Champ Pegasus, bred and owns Separate Forest. Like Champ Pegasus, Separate Forest is out of a top-class South American mare, in this case Separata.

“She was a real good stakes winner for me on turf, and a Group 1 turf sprinter in Chile,” Mandella said.

Eleven were entered in the race, with four on the also-eligible list.

The primary challenger to Separate Forest should be Pink Diamond, who has finished second in three straight turf sprints at this level since being claimed for a mere $8,000 by trainer Marcelo Polanco. Pink Diamond will be making her third start at the meet.

Early pace pressure figures to come from Punctual, who is making her first start since March. She was racing in claiming races before going to the sidelines.

Easy Ashley is making her seventh straight start at a different track. She was third in a turf sprint at Saratoga on July 28.