08/21/2006 11:00PM

Guessing right with Gallardo

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DEL MAR, Calif. - When trainer Mike Mitchell went to the paddock for the sixth race on Aug. 11, he was scouting two horses as potential claims. Neither was named Gallardo. But it was Gallardo who caught his eye.

"He looked great," Mitchell said. "I had about 10 or 12 minutes to make a decision."

Mitchell decided to take a shot with , then trained by Bob Baffert, on behalf of owner George Stanley, who had given Mitchell carte blanche. Gallardo was dropping out of a second-level allowance condition into a $50,000 claimer, but he had been gelded since his last start. To Mitchell, the positives outweighed the negatives.

And when Gallardo bounded home by 4 1/4 lengths, Mitchell felt relief.

"I don't like to claim off Baffert, because he plays the game as good anybody," Mitchell said.

Gallardo will try to give his new connections an immediate return on investment in Thursday's featured seventh race at Del Mar, a 1 1/16-mile allowance race with a $68,000 purse. Gallardo returns to the level at which he ran second in two starts prior to being risked in a claiming race.

There are five other horses in the race, comprising four betting interests.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer sends out the entry of Passive Income and Dr. Einstein. Passive Income was a sharp second to Top This and That in a similar second-level allowance on July 30. Dr. Einstein was caught in a hot pace when sprinting at this level on July 27 and faded. With his sharp speed, and an outside box, he figures to make a run for it.

Refinery exits the same sprint as Dr. Einstein. In his first start in four months - he needed time off to recover from a foot bruise - Refinery stalked the early pace, but then failed to punch it in and wound up sixth in a nine-horse field, two spots in front of Dr. Einstein.

"I was disappointed with his first race back," said Richard Mandella, who trains Refinery. "I thought he'd settle and finish, but he hung the last three-sixteenths."

Currituck won his final two starts at Hollywood Park, one against claimers, the other in a first-level allowance. He usually needs a hot pace to set up his late rush.

Devil's Bay pressed the pace but then faded to finish last in a six-horse field when facing Passive Income on July 30. He has been stuck at this level since beating a first-level allowance field in January.