08/07/2001 11:00PM

German sprinter tries mile

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Can a sprinter from Germany get a two-turn mile in California?

The question applies to Abidjar on Friday, when he makes his U.S. debut in the $64,000 Relaunch Stakes at Del Mar. Eight 3-year-olds entered the mile turf race, which Walkslikeaduck used last year as a prep for his upset in the Del Mar Derby.

Before Abidjar is considered for the nine-furlong Derby, he must stay a mile against Oceanside third-place finisher Our Main Man; late-running sprinter I Love Silver; speedball Presidio Heights; pressers Macabe and Mr Freckles; and longshots Crazy Larrys and Bricks and Ivy.

The conditions of the Relaunch - nonwinners-of-three-lifetime - fit Abidjar, who won two of six in Germany. According to trainer Kathy Walsh, Abidjar was highly regarded before tailing off last season, and his workouts suggest a return to top form first start back. Abidjar arrived three months ago to point for the 3-year-old turf series at Del Mar, but a series of minor setbacks delayed his comeback.

"When he got here, he had got sick, and had some little problems, but he worked really well the other day," Walsh said. Abidjar will be making his first start as a gelding. "That really improves them," added Walsh.

In a race with ample speed, Abidjar will try to win from behind. "He's been on the pace, he was a very fast horse as a 2-year-old, but we're trying to get him back," Walsh said. The 3-year-old finished fourth his only start this year in Germany. Afterward, he was purchased by James Vreeland on the recommendation of bloodstock agent Richard Duggan.

Our Main Man is Abidjar's main foe. A gelding by Maria's Mon, Our Main Man was claimed off a $32,000 maiden-claiming win last fall by trainer Grant Hofmans for a partnership that includes Class Racing Stable. Our Main Man already has earned $64,152 this year, and comes off a creditable third-place finish in the faster division of the Oceanside Stakes.

The pace will be set by Presidio Heights, who scored front-running sprint wins in his last two starts in northern California. Other contenders include Macabe, disappointing sixth-place finisher in the Oceanside; Bricks and Ivy, who raced wide throughout in his first start this meet; and former Kentucky Derby candidate I Love Silver.

If the race unfolds to expectations, Presidio Heights will tire at the head of the lane, Abidijar will get first run, and try to hold off the stretch run of Our Main Man.

Go to Del Mar coverage.

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