08/11/2005 11:00PM

Hot workers clash in rematch


DEL MAR, Calif. - What a Song and Bashert renew a budding rivalry Sunday at Del Mar, where both 2-year-olds have burned up the track preparing for the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes.

What a Song posted a neck victory last month over Bashert in the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile. Since then, each has posted bullet works at Del Mar, and trainers Bob Baffert (What a Song) and Bill Currin (Bashert) expect further improvement in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal.

"People are always ragging on me and Baffert for working our horses too fast," Currin said, referring to Bashert's 57.60-second bullet work on Tuesday. "This horse wanted to work fast, and I let him work fast. The next day I couldn't hold him on the ground."

will start favored in the Best Pal, and Baffert expects a forward move. To compensate for a quirky habit of bearing out, What a Song wore an outside blinker that Baffert cut back for his final breeze before the Hollywood Juvenile. The experiment was a failure.

"It was a horrible work," Baffert said.

What a Song won anyway, with an outstanding Beyer Speed Figure of 92. There have been no equipment alterations since arriving at Del Mar, where What a Song's works include a 1:10.80 bullet on Aug. 1 from the gate.

"He's doing fantastic," Baffert said. "He's just a talented horse, he's very fast, and has a great mind."

The Best Pal field includes debut winners Corazondelcampeon and A.P. Warrior, and overmatched maiden Plug Me In. has not raced since a romping win May 29 at five furlongs. He popped a splint afterward, and trainer David La Croix admits being "a little skeptical of the distance" in the horse's first start back.

, a $1.3 million yearling by A.P. Indy, won his only start on July 17 with a Beyer Figure of 82, and has trained well since. But if the Best Pal unfolds without incident, it shapes up as another two-horse duel between What a Song and Bashert.

Although the $150,000 Best Pal is a prep for the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, Baffert is loaded with 2-year-olds and said the Best Pal "could be the last time" What a Song runs at the meet. What a Song was purchased as a 2-year-old for $1.9 million by Bob and Beverly Lewis.

What a Song overcame a compromising trip to win the Juvenile - he took back early and re-rallied outside - and enters as the most likely winner.

"I'm very confident in how he's coming up to this race," Baffert said.