08/12/2005 12:00AM

Island Fashion eyes Pacific Classic

Island Fashion could face males for the third time Aug. 21 in the Pacific Classic.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Island Fashion, the millionaire mare who finished second against males in the 2004 Santa Anita Handicap, may take on the boys in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 21, trainer Marcelo Polanco said Friday.

After discussing options with owner Jeff Nielsen, Island Fashion was made one of 14 nominations to the richest race of the meeting.

As of Friday, 10 horses were considered probable starters: Ace Blue, Borrego, Choctaw Nation, Congrats, Island Fashion, Lava Man, Musique Toujours, Perfect Drift, Super Frolic, and Surf Cat.

Lava Man, the winner of the Californian and Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park earlier this year, will be favored.

When asked if Island Fashion could be competitive against Lava Man or Choctaw Nation, the winner of the San Diego Handicap here on July 24, Polanco said, "We're about to find out."

Island Fashion will also be nominated for the $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 26.

"We'll have to see who is going" to the Personal Ensign, Polanco said. "We'll be talking about it."

Island Fashion finished second by a head in two Grade 1 races against females in July, losing the Vanity Handicap to Splendid Blended on the main track at Hollywood Park on July 3 and the John Mabee Handicap to Amorama here on turf July 24.

A winner of 6 of 23 starts and $1,917,970, Island Fashion is winless since the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap last October at Santa Anita. She has faced males twice, finishing second by 1 1/4 lengths to Southern Image in the Santa Anita Handicap and 16th of 18 in the $1.6 million Yasuda Kinen in Japan in June 2004.

Imperialism coming back in Pat O'Brien

Imperialism, who was third in the 2004 Kentucky Derby, will return from a five-month break in the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap over seven furlongs Aug. 21.

Imperialism, 4, has not started since finishing seventh in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March. Trainer Kristin Mulhall said Imperialism emerged from that race with a severely pulled muscle in his hind end.

Friday at Del Mar, Imperialism worked seven furlongs in 1:24.40.

Mulhall said Imperialism is ready for a top effort. Among those he will face are the first three finishers in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park last month: Unfurl the Flag, who won the race, and Bear in the Woods and McCann's Mojave, who finished in a dead heat for second.

New course ideas discussed at conference

An annual conference of racecourse superintendents drew approximately 90 visitors from throughout North America, Europe, and Australia to Del Mar earlier this week.

The two-day conference discussed a wide variety of topics, including the growing acceptance of the synthetic Polytrack surface in the United States, the banking of surfaces, and other forms of maintenance for turf and dirt surfaces.

Rogers Beasley of Keeneland discussed how that track has installed Polytrack on its training track. The surface was recently installed on the main track at Turfway Park, which opens its late summer meeting Sept. 7.

"A lot of people knew about it, but they hadn't seen it," said Del Mar turf course superintendent Leif Dickinson of Polytrack. "They didn't know a lot about it."

Trainer Michael Dickinson discussed maintenance techniques at his Tapeta Farms in Maryland. Dickinson maintains both turf and dirt gallops for his stable and has trademarked his own dirt surfaces used at the farm.

Leif Dickinson said course superintendents from overseas were fascinated with American maintenance since American tracks race daily, and tracks in Australia and England often race only one day before moving to another course.

"They were very interested in how different racing is here, and how different it is in that we race every day," Dickinson said. "They don't do that in Australia and England."

Leif Dickinson said the 2006 conference is scheduled to be held at Churchill Downs and is hopeful that, by then, he and his colleagues will have created a more formal organization.

"We're trying to form an association and put together a committee that can plan these conferences," he said. "We want to try to expand this the way the golf course manager's association has. It will be an interaction to share ideas. Racing has been rather closed, at least in this country. We want to open more communication."

Giacomo photo opportunity in paddock

Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo will be paraded in the paddock before Sunday's fifth race. His appearance will be a photo opportunity for racegoers.

Giacomo is not in training. He underwent surgery to have bone chips removed from his left front ankle and his right knee June 21. Giacomo is expected to resume training in early fall and is being hand-walked three times a day, trainer John Shirreffs said.