08/14/2007 11:00PM

Fleet Caroline faster - and meaner


DEL MAR, Calif. - Fleet Caroline has changed drastically for trainer Vladimir Cerin in recent months. Once a maiden claimer, she now belongs in graded stakes. Once a well-mannered filly, Fleet Caroline is . . . well, ornery, to say the least.

"She's an absolute witch," Cerin said. "She's kicking the walls and trying to jump over the webbing."

Cerin and the partnership that owns the 3-year-old filly are hoping that Fleet Caroline's attitude will translate to a successful race in the $400,000 Del Mar Oaks on Saturday.

Fleet Caroline finished second in her stakes debut, the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap at a mile on turf here on July 28. The race was only her third start of the year. She won a $62,500 claimer in January at Santa Anita and an allowance race at Hollywood Park in April, emerging with a slight injury.

"She had a minor mishap and stepped on her pastern at Hollywood," Cerin said.

Cerin said that Fleet Caroline was somewhat short when she ran in the San Clemente. Breaking from the outside in a field of 10, Fleet Caroline led by two lengths on the backstretch and was beaten a half-length by Passified, another runner in the Del Mar Oaks.

"She had a bad post and I had to send her," Cerin said.

Following that race, Fleet Caroline was treated for five days in a hyperbaric chamber. The treatment of pure oxygen helps horses recover from strenuous exercise. Cerin has such a chamber at his Los Angeles-area home.

"I put her in the chamber for five days after the race and she became stronger," Cerin said.

Cerin expects a better race from Fleet Caroline in the Del Mar Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile turf race, even though the race has drawn the stakes winners Passified, Rutherienne, Spenditallbaby, Super Freaky, and Valbenny, who will go favored.

"Someone will have to run well to get by her," Cerin said of Fleet Caroline. "I don't think there is that much speed in there. I think she'll probably be first or second all the way."

Ladies Din dies while show jumping

Ladies Din, a winner of 12 of 37 starts and $1,966,754, died earlier this summer of a suspected heart attack, his co-owner Bernie Schiappa and trainer Julio Canani said on Wednesday. The incident occurred when Ladies Din, 12, was show jumping, they said.

Ladies Din retired in 2003. He won such major races as the 1998 Del Mar Derby, 2000 Eddie Read Handicap and 2002 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile. Owned by Schiappa and Terry Lanni, Ladies Din was one of the finest turf milers of the late 1990s and early 2000s. In his final start, Ladies Din finished sixth in the 2003 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park.

Even though Ladies Din had not raced in several years, Schiappa had kept up on the gelding's life after his racetrack retirement.

"It's very sad and very emotional," he said. "To me, he was part of the family."

Private Banking in tough spot

Private Banking, who finished second in the Osunitas Handicap here on July 21, starts in an optional claimer at a mile on turf on Friday, a race that has the look of a minor stakes.

Private Banking breaks from post 4, but must beat Double Trouble and Sweet Belle, who were third and fifth in the Osunitas; Alexandra Rose, seventh in the Grade 2 CashCall Mile at Hollywood Park last month; and Clinet, who was stakes-placed at Santa Anita last winter.

Double Trouble had a troubled trip in the Osunitas. She finished a nose behind Private Banking after steadying in the final furlong.

Private Banking was beaten a length in the Osunitas, closing from seventh in a field of eight.

Trained by Ron McAnally and owned by Arnold Zetcher, Private Banking is seeking her first win since the Marina Handicap at Golden Gate Fields last August. Zetcher watched the Marina Handicap from Del Mar

"There was no pace and it didn't make any difference," Zetcher said. "I think it was my rooting for her - from down here - that got her there."

Becrux topweighted for Mile

Becrux, the winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last September, is the 121-pound starting highweight for Sunday's $400,000 Del Mar Mile on turf. The field of nine includes Crossing the Line, a sharp allowance winner who is making his stakes debut, and Out of Control, the winner of the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park in June.

Sunday's $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap at seven furlongs drew six entrants, led by Greg's Gold and Bordonaro, the second- and third-place finishers in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap here on July 29, and Surf Cat, who was second in the Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park last month.

Souvenir Slew bound for derby

The Grade 2, $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 2 is next for Souvenir Slew, who won an optional claiming race on Sunday. If the field for the derby has more than 10 runners, earnings are the criteria for inclusion. Souvenir Slew already had earned plenty of money through graded stakes appearances earlier this year.

"I think he's got enough earnings to get in," said his trainer, Craig Dollase. "That was just a little tune-up the other day. This way we could take advantage of his conditions, and get a race over the track."

Grass greener for Kapalua Bay

Trainer Ron Ellis said "we might have found a home on grass" for Kapalua Bay following his stylish victory in a first-level allowance sprint on Monday.

"He's bred for it," Ellis said of the son of Mutakddim. "I think he moves better over it, and he comes out of his races better on grass."

Ellis said if there is nothing at the end of this meet for Kapalua Bay, he will wait for a 6 1/2-furlong downhill turf sprint at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting.

Ellis is also a big fan of the move to synthetic surfaces in California. He is glad Del Mar has not tinkered with Polytrack this summer.

"I give them credit for standing their ground," he said. "Obviously guys who aren't winning are complaining, and guys who are winning aren't complaining. But I think it's a good, safe surface, and that's what matters most down here. Last year I was shipping everything out of here after two weeks. This year, I'm shipping everything in."

Wait worth it for Patch of Blue

It took until August of his 3-year-old year to finally get Patch of Blue to the races, but he made a dazzling debut last Sunday, winning a maiden race with a sensational stretch kick.

"He showed some talent on and off," said his trainer, Richard Mandella. "But he was babyish."

Seth Semkin, who manages owner B. Wayne Hughes's runners, said: "He had little chronic stuff, ankles, things like that. We turned him out for quite awhile - even though he was rather precocious."

Mel Stute dealing with loss

The past week has not been easy for Mel Stute, who lost his older brother, fellow trainer Warren, last week.

"You're never ready for it, but it really was for the better," said Stute, who was part of a breakfast club that met most mornings at Del Mar and Santa Anita and included his brother and regulars like Hughes and trainer Henry Moreno.

Del Mar had a memorial service for Warren Stute in the paddock following the races on Monday.

* Yearly Attitude, who was removed from the track in a horse ambulance following her victory in Monday's first race, suffered fractures and ligament damage in her right front ankle and will not race again, according to Ina Sue Shulman, whose husband, trainer Sandy, claimed Yearly Attitude in that race.

"She'll be able to be a broodmare," she said.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman