08/09/2005 11:00PM

Hard to overlook Bashert

Breeders' Cup Sprint hopeful Greg's Gold, the upset winner of the Bing Crosby, probably will skip the Pat O'Brien Handicap on Aug. 21.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Whether it has been on the workout sheet or in a stakes, the juvenile Bashert has demanded attention this summer.

Tuesday at Del Mar, Bashert worked five furlongs in 57.60, the fastest of 37 recorded works at the distance.

The work may seem very quick for a 2-year-old, but trainer Bill Currin is convinced that it will help the colt when he makes his fourth career start in Sunday's $150,000 Best Pal Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar.

Three other contenders for the Best Pal - A.P. Warrior, Corazondelcampeon, and What a Song - also had quick five-furlong workouts at Del Mar on Monday and Tuesday, all going quicker than one minute.

"They all worked in the high 50's," Currin said, referring to the time. "I felt obligated to work 57 and 3. More importantly, mine galloped out in 1:10.

"I think there are four big horses in the race. I think it will be an outstanding race. I think any of the four has a chance to win."

Currin will be trying for his first Del Mar stakes win in 17 years, since Griefnaggrava-tion won the 1988 Osunitas.

Last year, Currin started the promising Wetherly in the Best Pal. The colt was racing in third on the turn when he broke down. He had to be euthanized. "That was very hard to deal with," Currin said.

Like with many of his horses, Currin shares the ownership with a partner, Al Eisman. Bashert has one victory in three starts, a five-length win in a maiden race at Hollywood Park on June 5. In the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 16, Bashert led to deep stretch before finishing a neck behind What a Song.

The loss did not discourage Currin. "He's the same as he's always been - good," Currin said. "With a month of age, he's a little more mature. I think I should stand at the top of the group."

Foreign buys a bargain no more

The Del Mar Derby and Del Mar Oaks, the top races for 3-year-olds at this meeting, will largely lack a foreign influence this year.

Unlike in past seasons, when some owners and trainers scrambled in late summer to buy in Europe, there are very few horses being purchased from Ireland, France, and England to run at this meeting.

Trainers and bloodstock agents say that the supply of suitable candidates is low, while prices for the few available prospects are high. To some extent, a decline in the value of the dollar against the Euro and the British pound has affected prices, trainers say.

"They are way out of line on prices," said trainer Ron McAnally, who annually shops for prospects at this time of year. "They want $1 million for horses with no breeding. It's the same way in Argentina."

The last three winners of the Del Mar Derby - Inesperado in 2002, Fairly Ransom in 2003, and Blackdoun in 2004 - began their careers in Europe. McAnally trained Fairly Ransom.

Four of the last five winners of the Del Mar Oaks - No Matter What in 2000, Golden Apples in 2001, Dublino in 2002, and Amorama in 2004 - had European backgrounds. Golden Apples had been in the United States for less than a week before she won the Oaks.

McAnally said he will wait until autumn, toward the end of the European flat season, to seek more prospects.

"The racing season will be over and that's the time to go," he said. "If you want to pay the big prices, you can go now."

Injured Ticafic to miss Del Mar meet

Ticafic, a French stakes winner bought by a partnership earlier this year, will miss Del Mar after apparently suffering a minor injury when he arrived in California.

Ticafic won the Prix du Pont-Neuf over seven furlongs on turf at Longchamp, France, on May 19. He arrived in this country in June but has yet to start.

"I breezed him only a half-mile and he got sore behind," trainer Mike Machowsky said. "I'll wait until Oak Tree. If I pressed I felt I'd mess something up. I don't know if he wrenched something or what."

Surf Cat works toward Pacific Classic

Surf Cat, the winner of the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last month, worked a mile in 1:38.20 on Wednesday, preparing for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 21.

The start and finish point was different than a typical workout.

The workout started at the half-mile pole - toward the end of the backstretch - and finished at the same point. Most workouts are completed at the finish line.

Headley said he changed the start and finish point because Surf Cat was becoming too eager during lengthy jogs prior to workouts. "He was getting too cranked up," Headley said. "We warmed up in the seven-eighths chute and came straight down" the track.

Surf Cat is the lone 3-year-old expected to start in the Pacific Classic, the most lucrative race at this meeting.

* Congrats, who finished second in the Santa Anita Handicap and third in the Hollywood Gold Cup earlier this year, worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 on Wednesday.

Greg's Gold on unknown path to BC Sprint

Greg's Gold, the upset winner of the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap on July 31, is unlikely to start in the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap on Aug. 21, trainer David Hofmans said.

"The Breeders' Cup is our goal, but I'm not sure how we'll get there," Hofmans said of the $1 million Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.

Hofmans said options include the $500,000 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park on Oct. 1 or the $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 8. A California-bred, he is also eligible for the California Cup Sprint on Nov. 6.

Owned by Bill Boswell, Greg's Gold won his graded stakes debut in the Bing Crosby, rallying from just off the pace. A 4-year-old gelding, Greg's Gold has won 4 of 13 starts and $350,928.

* Rock Hard Ten, the winner of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Wednesday. Trained by Richard Mandella, Rock Hard Ten is being pointed for the $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 1.