11/21/2003 12:00AM

Irish Pleasure peaking in time for Au Revoir


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Last Sunday, Irish Pleasure paid $59.60 when he won the Lion's Gate, an allowance race restricted to horses who hadn't won a stakes this year. Next Sunday, he'll be one of the favorites in the closing-day feature, the Au Revoir Handicap.

While it's understandable that Irish Pleasure wasn't the favorite last Sunday, it's surprising that he paid as much as he did. After all, he won the same race last year, and he can never be counted out when the track is wet. He was also making his third start following a three-month layoff. He ran well in his comeback race, when he was third to Celt in a $50,000 allowance on Oct. 13, and you could easily toss his last-place finish to Kalfaari and Silver Donn on Oct. 26.

"We were really lucky he didn't hurt himself in that race," said Irish Pleasure's owner, Fred Kwan. "He almost went down when he was shut off by Kalfaari."

Kalfaari, who finished first, was disqualified and placed last.

Irish Pleasure, claimed by Kwan for $50,000 in June 2002, was also in good form at the end of the 2002 Hastings meet. He won two of his last three starts that year and finished second to Eternal Secrecy in the Au Revoir. He was going so well that Kwan decided to send him to northern California with trainer Daryl Snow.

It was a good move, as Irish Pleasure won a race and also picked up a second and third from four starts. However, according to Kwan, he picked up a virus and is just finally starting to recover.

"He just wasn't right when he came home," he said. "He was just a little bit off, and after he ran so poorly in the Lieutenant Governor's [in July], we turned him out. Right now he looks as good as ever, and he should run another good race in the Au Revoir. A lot of people think that the mud was the reason he ran so well last weekend, but really he's just coming around again."

The Lion's Gate was Irish Pleasure's first start north of the border for Snow. Tony Cizik had been Irish Pleasure's trainer at Hastings since Kwan claimed him last year, but Cizik had to go to Winnipeg because of an illness in his family.

"Daryl was the obvious choice," said Kwan. "He knows him and took good care of him in California. He obviously ran well for him here also."

"I've only had him for a couple of weeks," Snow said. "I didn't do anything special. He really likes the mud, so that helped, and hopefully it will rain again before next weekend."

Anthony Stephen rode Irish Pleasure last weekend, but Kwan isn't sure who is going to get the mount in the Au Revoir.

"Anthony is going to Trinidad to ride next weekend, and I'm still looking for a jockey," Kwan said. "I had the same problem with Galavant. He kept winning and nobody wanted to ride him."

Futural will likely be favored in the Au Revoir. He won the Sir Winston Churchill on Sept. 20 and ran a big race to finish third in the Grade 3 Premier's on Oct. 12. Surprisingly, he was entered in a $25,000 claiming sprint Nov. 8, and he was claimed by the Diglett Stable. Gary Demorest is Diglett's trainer.

"The horse has a lot of class," Demorest said. "You don't make over $700,000 by accident. We weren't looking at this race in particular, but the race is there and he seems to be doing okay, so we'll run him and then probably give him a little bit of a holiday."

Demorest was pleased with the way Futural worked Thursday, covering five furlongs in a leisurely 1:03.80 on a track rated good.

"He felt fine," he said. "I just wanted to get to know him a little more. He's 7 now, so he has some wear and tear, but nothing serious. He's a pretty neat horse, and I'm happy to have him in my barn."