08/14/2012 12:24PM

Del Mar: Vaundell back from long layoff in Thursday turf sprint


DEL MAR, Calif. – Vaundell hasn’t raced in 16 months, and when he came breezing through the stretch for a quarter-mile blowout Monday morning here at Del Mar, he looked eager to do a whole lot more. The thing is, the willingness has never been a problem for the 6-year-old gelding. But he’s been betrayed by soundness issues that have limited him to just seven races, so there’s no messing around when he comes back in Thursday’s featured seventh race at Del Mar.

“He’s always good for a race or two,” trainer Carla Gaines said. “He’s had a bundle of problems. He’s a very honest horse, though.”

Vaundell’s journey began in February 2009, with a debut win against maidens at Santa Anita.

“Back then, it looked then like he was going to be a really good horse,” Gaines said, “but soundness issues get in the way.”

Vaundell raced just once more in 2009, then not again for more than nine months. After a pair of races in early 2010, he did not race for another 13 months. He raced three times last year before again heading to the sidelines.

Vaundell returns Thursday with his first-level open allowance condition in a $71,000 optional claimer that drew 10 turf sprinters, including two also-eligibles, set to go five furlongs on turf. He drew the rail. Rafael Bejarano, the meet’s leading rider, has the mount. Bejarano has been aboard Vaundell for both of his previous victories, including in a downhill turf sprint at Santa Anita in February 2010.

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Red Defense, second at this level July 20, takes a slight class drop after finishing third when racing for $62,500 last time out July 25.

Circa’sgoldengear has been freshened and is returning to a sprint off a third-place finish in a one-mile turf race in April. He was second the last two times he sprinted on turf, but this will be his first start at the abbreviated five-furlong distance.

Mindblower, off more than 11 months, is winless in six starts since a debut win in April 2010, but this will be the first time on turf for the son of Giant’s Causeway.

The Whammer, claimed for $4,000 in April and vastly improved since, was second to Red Defense in a turf sprint at Betfair Hollywood Park in June before finding two turns beyond his range in his last start. He has finished first or second in 15 of 30 starts.

Both Perfect Parker and Quietly Mine have run races good enough to be a factor at this level, but both need to get in from the also-eligible list.