05/06/2004 12:00AM

Hope Rises enters Vanity off key race


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Santa Lucia Handicap at Santa Anita on April 4 is turning out to be a key race. That bodes well for Hope Rises's chances in Sunday's $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Summer Wind Dancer, the runner-up in the Santa Lucia, returned to finish a game second to Royally Chosen in the B. Thoughtful Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 24. Royally Chosen was seventh in the Santa Lucia.

Pesci, who was third in the Santa Lucia, returned to win an optional claimer by 8 1/2 lengths at Hollywood Park on April 30.

Hope Rises can continue that string of success in the Vanity. Run at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, the Vanity marks Hope Rises's first start in a Grade 1 race since she finished fourth in the La Brea Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita in December.

In just her third career start, Hope Rises was beaten eight lengths by Island Fashion in the La Brea.

"She showed a lot of class in the Grade 1 versus Island Fashion after two races," trainer Ron Ellis said. "She was closing, and she could have been second."

After finishing fourth in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes in January, Hope Rises won an allowance race in February. Two months later, she was all out to hold off Summer Wind Dancer in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Lucia.

"She battled off a couple of different horses in that race," Ellis said.

The Vanity is far from an easy spot for Hope Rises, who races for Jay Em Ess Stable. Adoration, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff last October, will go favored in a small field expected to include the 2004 stakes winners Star Parade and Victory Encounter.

Pleasantly Perfect back in training

Pleasantly Perfect has returned to trainer Richard Mandella's stable after a brief vacation, while the champion Halfbridled has been turned out for 30 days to recuperate from two incidents of cramps suffered in Kentucky last month.

Pleasantly Perfect has not started since winning the $6 million Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse on March 27. He spent two weeks at Mandella's stable at Santa Anita when he returned to the United States before being given a three-week break at a local farm.

Owned by Gerald Ford of Dallas, Pleasantly Perfect, 6, is unlikely to start again until late summer or the autumn. The long-term goal is the $4 million BC Classic at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30, a race that Pleasantly Perfect won at Santa Anita last October.

Mandella said the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August or the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita in the fall are logical preps.

"He's started jogging again and he looks great," Mandella said. "He had a little rest; he was turned out. We'll aim for the Breeders' Cup. There is a good chance I'll run in the Goodwood. If we get to do something like the Pacific Classic, it will be icing on the cake. He'll tell us."

Pleasantly Perfect has earned $6,699,880, but has been passed on the career earnings list by Smarty Jones, who has earned $6,763,155 thanks largely to the $5 million bonus for sweeping the Rebel Stakes, Arkansas Derby, and Kentucky Derby this spring.

Smarty Jones and Pleasantly Perfect are seventh and eighth on the all-time North American list, trailing Cigar with $9,999,815.

Pleasantly Perfect was one of four Southern California-based horses to start in the Dubai World Cup. None of the other three - Medaglia d'Oro (who finished second), Domestic Dispute (sixth), and Fleetstreet Dancer (seventh) - are near a return.

Medaglia d'Oro is walking and will be pointed for the BC Classic, trainer Bobby Frankel said.

Domestic Dispute emerged from the race dehydrated and is walking, trainer Paddy Gallagher said.

Fleetstreet Dancer, who won the $2.26 million Japan Cup Dirt last November, has been turned out for six months at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez, Calif., trainer Doug O'Neill said.

Fleetstreet Dancer emerged from the Dubai World Cup "tired and kind of bruised," O'Neill said.

Halfbridled to take a month off

Halfbridled will spend 30 days at a Kentucky farm.

Owned by the Wertheimer family, Halfbridled tied up twice last month, including last Friday, the morning of the Kentucky Oaks. The champion 2-year-old filly of 2003, Halfbridled was scratched from that race.

"She's out in the grass and happy," Mandella said. "There's the smallest chance she could be ready for the Del Mar Oaks, but I don't want to predict that. I think the month off will help. I think her mind was skating on a fine edge."

Mandella said he does not have race plans for the 3-year-olds Action This Day and Minister Eric, who finished sixth and 16th in the Kentucky Derby.

Action This Day, the champion 2-year-old male of 2003, emerged from the race "looking a little tired," Mandella said.

Minister Eric is likely to undergo a myectomy, a surgical procedure that aids horses with breathing problems.

Toccet transferred to Frankel

Toccet, the 2002 Hollywood Futurity winner who is winless in six starts this year, has been transferred to trainer Bobby Frankel by owner Daniel Borislow. Toccet, 4, was previously trained by John Scanlan.

The decision was announced after Toccet finished last of seven in Wednesday's Grade 3 Westchester Handicap at Belmont Park.

Frankel said Toccet will undergo physical tests in Kentucky and then be given a break of five or six weeks.

Toccet is likely to be sent to California this summer, Frankel said.

"When I put him back in training, I want him as sound as he can be," Frankel said.

Toccet was considered a top candidate for the 2003 Triple Crown before an injury sidelined him. Since returning to racing last August, he has one win in 13 starts. In the last six months, Toccet has finished third in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November and second in the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita in January.