07/25/2007 11:00PM

Glatt sees a shot and takes it


DEL MAR, Calif. - Get out the dartboard and the blindfold for Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Stakes at Del Mar. To describe it as wide open is gross understatement. Cocktails and a moonlight drive with Lindsay Lohan would be more predictable.

At the very least, deference must be paid to Super Freaky for her valiant efforts against local division leader Valbenny, and Passified is not far behind. Spenditallbaby whips right back after winning last Sunday's Fleet Treat. Mostbeautifulstorm adds Midwestern intrigue. Then there is Private Dreams, from Chile by way of Jerry Hollendorfer, with pedigree and promise to burn.

The feeling persists, though, that they should get it while they can. When the division reconvenes on Aug. 18 for the longer Del Mar Oaks, Valbenny will be back, along with the inevitable Todd Pletcher invader, plus whatever else $400,000 and a Grade 1 doodad can muster.

To this end, second-generation trainer Mark Glatt has entered Diva's Seastar and La Tee, a pair of Broken Vow fillies, hoping that Saturday is the day they can begin to deliver on early indications.

"To look at them you'd never imagine they were by the same sire," Glatt said Thursday morning at his Del Mar barn, and to no one's surprise, the trainer was right.

Diva's Seastar, who was getting a carrot from a small fan, is a smallish, well-proportioned dark bay with a wisp of white between her kind eyes. A few stalls down, La Tee, a lighter bay, towered over her groom, itching for something to do.

"She doesn't have much of a head on her, and she's got those big floppy ears," Glatt said of La Tee. "But when I saw her walking at the sale, she just glided along. She hasn't grown that much since she was a yearling, but I figured at the time that a filly that big, who can move like she moves, ought to be able to run."

Right again. La Tee, a $50,000 yearling from Washington, made her debut last May in a six-furlong turf race at Holywood Park and popped by three lengths, at odds of 28-1. She came right back a month later to defeat winners, again at six furlongs on turf.

"She really surprised me," Glatt said. "Even though she was such a nice mover, I would never have guessed she had the kind of speed she does."

Diva's Seastar didn't have quite such an auspicious start as La Tee. She was banged around badly at the break of her debut last summer at Del Mar, chipping an ankle in the process. After recovering from repairs, it was back to square one. But three ugly losses this spring had Glatt scratching his head.

"So we sent her up north, going two turns against a little softer," Glatt said. "She won, and that seemed to turn her around."

In her most recent start, Diva's Seastar lost the one-mile Flawlessly Stakes at Hollywood Park by a length to San Clemente opponent Passified. Such form can only improve her worth for owners Susan and Allen Branch, who had more than a few good days with the filly's half-sister Elusive Diva.

Under Glatt's guidance, Elusive Diva won four stakes and placed in such decent graded events as the La Brea, the Las Palmas, the Buena Vista, and the Hollywood Oaks. She sold at last year's Keeneland bloodstock auction for $1.6 million, which gives little sister something to shoot for.

To go along with her size, La Tee boasts a decent family of her own. Her dam, Ashcreek, is a half-sister to the major winner Stalcreek, who beat champion Hollywood Wildcat in the 1994 running of the La Canada Stakes.

All that stuff looks good on paper, but fillies like La Tee and Diva's Seastar need to win a lot of races like the San Clemente if Glatt is destined to associate with a higher class of animal. At age 34, with three small children, he is trying to make the transition from the claiming game to center ring. Glatt's handling of Elusive Diva proved he was not daunted by the prospect. But the training business is an intricate mix of quality and numbers, and with just 30 horses split between Hollywood and Del Mar, Glatt does not have much leeway.

"In order to play the claiming game, you've got to have people behind you who can basically take a whooping and step right back in there," Glatt said. "If they don't, and they go quiet after a couple bad claims, you'll miss opportunities when they come up."

Trying to fill a barn with better horses takes a lot of luck, persistence, and not a little bit of salesmanship. The low-key Glatt is hardly a turf-clubbing glad hander or a headline grabber, nor can he call upon some oddball personality hitch to set him apart as a genuine racetrack character. This means his ability with the care and management of a decent horse will more often than not be overlooked. If Richard Mandella or Ron McAnally had two fillies in a race like the San Clemente, the rest of the field might feel surrounded. Glatt's girls are in with a chance, but nobody's running scared. At least not yet.