Updated on 09/15/2011 12:40PM

Give 'Blues' a second chance

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The distance was too far. So goes the convenient excuse for Touch of the Blues, unplaced when favored three weeks ago in the Grade 2 American Handicap at nine furlongs.

The alibi makes sense, and forgiving bettors will make Touch of the Blues the solid favorite Friday at Del Mar when he races a mile on turf - optimum conditions for him - as the 121-pound highweight in the $75,000-added Wickerr Handicap.

Eight runners entered the Wickerr, including Grade 2 winner Big Ten; consistent California-bred Spinelessjellyfish; late-running sprinter King Slayer; and Lonesome Dude, Sumati, Thady Quill, and Lesters Boy. Based on his runner-up finish one start back when beaten a head in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile, Touch of the Blues deserves to be favored.

Trained by Neil Drysdale, Touch of the Blues will be making his fourth start in the U.S., having finished third in a Grade 2 sprint and second in the Shoemaker before his off-the-board finish in the American. Gary Stevens rides Touch of the Blues, a five-time winner of $251,814 from 19 starts. To win the race, he will have to beat Spinelessjellyfish, who is working like a beast for trainer Jenine Sahadi.

"He's the most honest horse I've seen, and he's doing unbelievable," Sahadi said, adding "he's had two black-type works over this turf course. He's doing well, so I'm taking my shot."

Spinelessjellyfish was beaten only three lengths in the Shoemaker, which was his most recent start May 28. From a tactical perspective, his speed should allow him a comfortable trip pressing the pace.

Conversely, graded stakes winner Big Ten is expected to be rated after being cooked chasing a hot pace in his comeback after having an ankle chip removed. Trainer Richard Mandella said he is using the Wickerr as a prep for the $250,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19.

One potential upsetter is Lonesome Dude, a 6-year-old stretching out to a mile after racing at a distance that was shorter than he prefers. "I ran him 5 1/2 furlongs, because there was no place else to run him," trainer Vladimir Cerin said. "He's a pretty good miler. He's fit, ready, and we'll see."

Cerin's best turf horse, Designed For Luck, will miss the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on Saturday because of bruised feet. He is being pointed for the $75,000 Harry F. Brubaker Handicap on Aug. 17.

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