09/07/2003 11:00PM

'Gentleman' needs another big win


DEL MAR, Calif. - Yankee Gentleman moved closer to a possible start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita next month by scoring his first stakes win in last Saturday's restricted $77,700 Pirate's Bounty Handicap.

Yankee Gentleman had a perfect trip under Julie Krone, scoring by five lengths over Avanzado. The six-furlong time of 1:07.90 was the fastest clocking of the meeting at the distance. He was given a 117 Beyer Speed Figure.

The victory has owners Marty and Pam Wygod and trainer John Shirreffs planning a start in the $200,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 5. A win in the Grade 1 Ancient Title over six furlongs is vital if Yankee Gentleman is to gain the necessary qualifying points to earn a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"We need to win the Ancient Title to get into the Breeders' Cup," Marty Wygod said. "He rates and he has burst of speed that is uncanny. He keeps getting better."

Miss Houdini injured in Torrey Pines

Miss Houdini, who finished last in Sunday's Torrey Pines Stakes, aggravated a tendon injury that already caused her to miss nearly a year of racing, and her prospects of racing again are questionable, trainer Warren Stute said Monday morning.

"She's not good, but she's not bad," Stute said. "She's definitely got a problem. When we get up to Santa Anita, we'll see how bad it is."

Miss Houdini won last year's Del Mar Debutante, but was injured shortly thereafter and did not return to the races until last month. As she did last year, she made two starts this season before being injured.

Grass sprints face reduction next year

Turf sprints over five furlongs will be run on a limited basis, if at all, during the 2004 Del Mar meeting, according to racing secretary Tom Robbins.

The sprints were offered regularly for the first time this year, with 14 races run from July 24 to Aug. 30.

Robbins said meetings will be held in coming months on whether to run turf sprints in 2004.

"If we do have them, we might have fewer," Robbins said. "We may just have two stakes and conditional allowances."

While the races averaged 8.2 starters and were limited to a maximum of 10, there is concern that the turf sprints damaged a course that was widely criticized during the meeting for being uneven and too hard.

"We have to weight the popularity against the condition of the course," Robbins said.

Buddy Gil rejoins Mullins stable

Santa Anita Derby winner Buddy Gil, who has not started since finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby, was scheduled to join trainer Jeff Mullins's stable at Santa Anita on Monday afternoon.

Buddy Gil had been turned out in Kentucky after the Kentucky Derby to have a bone chip removed from an ankle, Mullins said.

Mullins does not have any specific goals for Buddy Gil, but the Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita on Dec. 26 is a possibility.

Buddy Gil has won 5 of 10 starts and $729,455. Aside from the Santa Anita Derby, his stakes wins include the Baldwin Stakes, a turf sprint, in February and the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on March 16.

"The Kentucky Derby trail was rough," Mullins said. "He was losing weight and it was hard on him."

Draw in battle of sexes

Patrick Valenzuela might have struck a blow for the boys when beating Julie Krone in Sunday's match race, but it was ladies first when it came to the trainers, with Summer Mayberry beating Bob Baffert.

Mayberry on Monday morning said that Chester's Choice, who won the race by a nose from Woke Up Dreamin, "ate all his dinner last night," but was going to get a nice rest before competing again.

"He's going to get about two months," she said. "He's been running for a year straight. He looks pretty bright. I think he showed a lot of guts to come back like he did. They were walking at the end, but it didn't matter, because he got there first."

Mayberry said she had originally planned on giving Chester's Choice some time off prior to the match race, but when Del Mar's racing office proposed that Chester's Choice be one of the participants, she thought it was best to race him once more this summer.

"I had planned to give him some time, to let him grow up, but Bob said I was crazy," Mayberry said. "He said, 'Do you know what kind of publicity you'll get? And imagine if you beat me?' Yes, imagine."

Baffert has a stable numbering about 80 horses. Mayberry trains 12. She said winning the race was thrilling, but exhausting.

"You go through so many emotions in a race," she said. "At the quarter pole, I thought he was going to get dusted. But when he got up right at the wire, it was great."

Maiden winners moving up to stakes

House of Fortune and Odds On, the winners of maiden races on Saturday, will be pointed for early October stakes.

House of Fortune beat statebred 2-year-old fillies by eight lengths in the third race, finishing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.07. Trained by Ron McAnally for Arnold Zetcher, House of Fortune will be pointed for the $75,000 Cover Gal Stakes for California-breds over seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.

In Saturday's sixth race, Odds On, trained by Bob Baffert, won a six-furlong race by six lengths in 1:10.04. Owned by Jim McIngvale, Odds On was making his second start, having finished second to Minister Eric on Aug. 24. Minister Eric starts in Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity.

Baffert is considering three possible preps for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile for Odds On - the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park or the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, both on Oct. 4, or the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 5.

Baffert said he was leaning toward the Norfolk Stakes to give Odds On experience over the Santa Anita track in advance of the Breeders' Cup.

Racing shifts to Fairplex on Friday

Wednesday is the final day of the Del Mar meeting. Friday marks the first day of the Los Angeles County Fair meeting at Fairplex Park, which runs for 17 consecutive days through Sept. 28. There is no racing in Southern California on Thursday.

Friday's feature at Fairplex Park is the $50,000 Foothill Stakes for 3-year-olds over 6 1/2 furlongs. King Robyn, the winner of stakes at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, and Del Mar this year, is a candidate, trainer Jeff Mullins said.

There are five stakes at the meeting worth $100,000 or more. The Barretts Debutante on Sept. 20 and the Barretts Juvenile on Sept. 21 have estimated purses of $110,000.

The final weekend of the meeting features three $100,000 races - the Las Madrinas Handicap for fillies and mares on Sept. 26, the Pomona Derby on Sept. 27, and the Ralph Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap on Sept. 28.

Stevens heading out of town

Gary Stevens is booked to ride at Arlington Park and Woodbine this weekend.

Stevens has the mount on European import Hoh Buzzard in Saturday's Pucker Up Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Arlington Park. Hoh Buzzard won the Upavon Fillies Stakes at Salisbury, England and was second in the Group 3 Prix de la Nonette in Deauville, France, last month.

Sunday, Stevens rides Numerous Times in the Atto Mile at Woodbine.

- The annual Party in the Paddock will be held after the races on Wednesday. Admission is $20 in advance, $30 at the door. The party benefits Children's Hospital Auxiliary.

- Medaglia d'Oro, who finished second in the Pacific Classic, breezed a half-mile in 49.40 seconds on Monday morning for trainer Bobby Frankel. He is expected to make his next start in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman