07/23/2004 11:00PM

Fantastic Spain stirs dreams

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DEL MAR, Calif. - is part racehorse, part clown.

"He's a funny, big, immature, goofy horse," trainer Kristin Mulhall said.

And one with loads of talent.

On Monday at Del Mar, Fantastic Spain will start as the favorite in a $63,000 optional claimer over 1 3/8 miles on turf. Mulhall and owners David Bienstock, Steve Taub, and Chuck Winner are hoping that Fantastic Spain can move closer to a stakes appearance with a win.

The distance is not a concern to Mulhall.

Puerto Banus, Fantastic Spain's half-brother, won the San Luis Obispo Handicap over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Santa Anita in February. Fantastic Spain is also a half-brother to Spain, the winner of 9 of 35 starts and $3,540,542.

Fantastic Spain, a 4-year-old, will break from post 8 in a field of nine. In his last start, in an allowance race over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on June 12, Fantastic Spain rallied from eighth to score a convincing win by more than three lengths.

"He won easily and it didn't take anything out of him," Mulhall said.

That performance was flattered when third-place finisher Interceptor returned to win an allowance race.

David Flores will have the mount on Fantastic Spain on Monday and will be under instructions to wait as long as possible before making the lead.

"He can't make the lead early or he'll pull himself up," Mulhall said.

Right Proof is likely to set the pace. He was third in an optional claimer over 1 1/2 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on June 12.

Unrivalled, 3, has also shown speed, even at times when trainer Jim Cassidy would have preferred he hadn't.

The winner of the Pasadena Stakes over a mile on turf in his U.S. debut in March, Unrivalled is winless in his last three starts. In the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 26, Unrivalled was sent to the front on the backstretch of the turf race over 1 1/8 miles and faded from contention in the stretch.

and Hatif each have a chance to score an upset.

American Son was fourth in an optional claimer over 1 1/4 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on May 27, losing by a length.

Hatif, second at Hollywood Park on June 25, was a Group 1 winner over 1 1/4 miles on turf in Brazil in 2002.