08/07/2008 12:00AM

Kelly Leak gets test in Best Pal


DEL MAR, Calif. - The events of late summer and early fall 2007 continue to weigh heavily on trainer Mike Machowsky's mind.

Last year, Machowsky trained the 2-year-old Drill Down, who ran a game second to Georgie Boy in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity in September. But while training for a start in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita later that month, Drill Down was severely injured in a workout and was euthanized.

"It was one of those freak things that happen," Machowsky said. "I'll never get over that."

This summer, Machowsky has another promising 2-year-old in his stable in Kelly Leak. Kelly Leak makes his stakes debut in Sunday's $150,000 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

Purchased for $110,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2-year-olds in training sale in March, Kelly Leak won his debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight race at Hollywood Park on June 5. The style of that victory, combined with Kelly Leak's subsequent training, has left Machowsky optimistic that the colt can develop into a prospect for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

"He'll tell me," Machowsky said. "He's a playful horse at the barn, but when he works he's all business."

Machowsky has taken a conservative approach to Kelly Leak's summer campaign. A start in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 5 was abandoned after Kelly Leak emerged from his maiden win with a sore shin.

"Out of that maiden race, he had a small spot on a shin that was bothering him a little bit," Machowsky said. "I walked him for two weeks, and he's been fine since then."

Machowsky said earlier this week that he may not start Kelly Leak in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity over seven furlongs on Sept. 3, the closing day of this meeting. Instead, he is more focused on the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita on Sept. 28, a key distance test in advance of the BC Juvenile.

"This race might be too close to the Del Mar Futurity," Machowsky said of the Best Pal. "There's the Norfolk around two turns at Oak Tree, if he's good enough."

The Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes, run over 6 1/2 furlongs, has drawn a strong field of 10, including Hollywood Juvenile Championship winner Azul Leon and the impressive recent maiden race winners Captain Steel, Miguel's Mascot, and S.S. Stone.

Nownownow returns in La Jolla

Nownownow, winner of the inaugural Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park last fall, has made one start this year. He was fifth in the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas at Leopardstown, Ireland, in May. It was the worst performance of Nownownow's career and it came against some of the best horses in the world.

Race winner Henrythenavigator has won four consecutive Group 1 races this year - the Irish 2000 Guineas was the second win in that sequence. Henrythenavigator is considered a contender for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. New Approach, second in the Irish 2000 Guineas, bounced back to win the English Derby.

All of a sudden, a fifth-place finish by Nownownow does not look so bad.

What does concern new trainer Jason Orman are the events of the last month. Nownownow was entered for the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes on the main track at Hollywood Park on July 12, but did not start because of a bruised foot. While Nownownow has worked five furlongs twice since mid-July, Orman is worried whether the colt is ready for Saturday's Grade 2 La Jolla.

"He might need a race," Orman said. "He worked five-eighths and looked good. I'm sure he came over from Ireland very fit. It's a matter of how much fitness he lost."

Orman said Nownownow returned to racetrack training "about July 20" and "seems over" the foot problem. Owned by Fab Oak Stable, Nownownow is in search of his third stakes win. He won the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga last August in his turf debut.

Evita Argentina on to Debutante

Evita Argentina was not expected to win Wednesday's $150,000 Sorrento Stakes. Of trainer John Sadler's two fillies in the race, Evita Argentina was the outsider, while Emmy Darling was the leading contender, the second choice in the betting.

While Emmy Darling found trouble in the stretch, Evita Argentina rallied wide to win the Grade 3 Sorrento by a length over 9-5 favorite Stardom Bound. Emmy Darling, who finished fourth, was promoted to third after Glitter City, the original third-place finisher, was ruled to have caused interference in the stretch.

The win by Evita Argentina and the tough trip of Emmy Darling left Sadler eager for the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante here on Sept. 1, the championship race of the meeting for 2-year-old fillies.

"We've got a good hand going into the next one," Sadler said.

Evita Argentina ($17.20) gave the stallion Candy Ride his first stakes win. Candy Ride stands at Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Kentucky for an advertised fee of $12,500.

Evita Argentina ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.51, extending her unbeaten streak to two races. Owned by Halo Farms and Three Sisters Thoroughbreds, Evita Argentina won her debut in a maiden race over five furlongs at Hollywood Park on June 25.

Ridden by Tyler Baze, Evita Argentina closed from sixth in the Sorrento Stakes.

"We felt she had a nice kick and would be better going long," Sadler said. "The other filly was a little unlucky in her trip. She had to wait and got cut off. I thought we had a chance to be one-two."

Impressive drill by Midnight Lute

Midnight Lute, the Eclipse Award winner as the champion sprinter of 2007, worked seven furlongs in 1:21.60 under jockey Martin Pedroza at Del Mar on Thursday. The track record for the distance is 1:22.46, set by Lethal Heat in the Fleet Treat Stakes for statebred 3-year-old fillies July 20.

It is unclear whether Midnight Lute will have a chance to break Lethal Heat's mark in the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap on Aug. 24. Trainer Bob Baffert also is considering the $250,000 Forego Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 30 for Midnight Lute's 2008 debut.