09/01/2002 11:00PM

Knee surgery to sideline Sky Jack

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The scalding pace of the Pacific Classic has taken a toll on another front-runner. Sky Jack, who finished 11th in the 14-horse field, emerged with a chip in his right knee and will undergo surgery that will keep him out of action until next summer.

Doug O'Neill, who trains Sky Jack, said X-rays taken over the weekend showed a chip "on a weight-bearing spot that makes it kind of painful." He said Sky Jack will have surgery with Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith, the same veterinarian who last week fused Bosque Redondo's badly fractured right front ankle joint. Bosque Redondo was injured after pressing the pace in the Pacific Classic.

"It's the same knee he chipped before," O'Neill said of Sky Jack.

Sky Jack, now 6, needed knee surgery at the end of 2000 after winning the Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park. He suffered a bout of colic during his recuperation and did not return to the races until February of this year.

Sky Jack scored the biggest victory of his career on July 14, when he gamely fought off Momentum to take the Hollywood Gold Cup. Because he is a gelding, Sky Jack will be brought back to the races, though O'Neill said he and owners Rene and Margie Lambert will take a conservative approach.

"He'll be out for four months after the surgery, then have a month of tack walking before he even goes back to the track," O'Neill said. "And knowing the Lamberts, if they tell us five months, they'll want to give him eight. Hopefully we can get him back by next July so he can defend the Gold Cup."

Two Debutantes, 50 years apart

Miss Houdini, who remained unbeaten with her upset victory in Saturday's Del Mar Debutante, likely will make her next start in the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting on Oct. 6, trainer Warren Stute said Monday morning at Del Mar.

"She's fine," Stute said. "She ran an unbelievable race."

Stute, who trains a small stable of horses, has now won four stakes at the meeting, more than Bob Baffert or Bobby Frankel. Stute also won stakes with Grey Memo, Hot War, and Ragin T Rex.

Stute was in an animated mood Monday morning. He was joined by Bo Hirsch, who owns Miss Houdini and is the son of the late Clement Hirsch, for whom Stute trained for decades.

"Someone used to ask how Clement and I got along for so long," Stute said. "It's because when I started talking, Clement turned his hearing aid off."

The Debutante victory was the second for the 80-year-old Stute. He also won the inaugural Del Mar Debutante - in 1951, with Tonga.

"I can't wait 50 more years for my next one," Stute said, laughing. "I'm going to have to speed it up a little if I want to win again."

Stute brothers may have rematch

Miss Houdini might have a rematch in the Oak Leaf with Buffythecenterfold, who suffered the first loss of her career in the Debutante when she finished seventh of eight.

Buffythecenterfold, trained by Warren Stute's brother Mel, had won the first three starts of her career, but became ill after winning the Sorrento Stakes and had just one work in the three weeks between the Sorrento and the Debutante.

"She seems to be fine, but I'm going to give her a couple of extra days off," Mel Stute said Monday morning. "Then she'll go right back."

Stute said he considered running Buffythecenterfold next time out in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland but decided to remain in California for a final prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

"She shouldn't have run as bad as she did," Stute said, "but Snow Chief ran the same way in the Kentucky Derby."

Snow Chief came back in his next start to win the Preakness Stakes for Stute.

Delahoussaye out for meet

Jockey Eddie Delahoussaye will skip the rest of the meeting because he is body sore following an accident on the grass course last Friday that sent him tumbling to the turf.

Delahoussaye, 50, remained in the hospital overnight for observation and was released on Saturday, but he was too banged up to ride over the weekend. He then decided to take the rest of the meet off and point for Oak Tree, which begins on Oct. 2.

"We just want to take the rest of the time off and let Eddie heal up," said Delahoussaye's agent, Ray Kravagna.

Among the mounts Delahoussaye missed on Saturday was Miss Houdini in the Debutante. Gary Stevens picked up that mount.

* Mountain Rage and True Phenomenon, among the candidates for the $300,000,

Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on the turf on Saturday, both worked five furlongs on the dirt Monday. Mountain Rage was timed in 59.20 seconds, equaling the fourth-fastest time of 59 at the distance, and True Phenomenon was timed in 1:01.60. Rock Opera, who also is expected to run in the Del Mar Derby, worked five furlongs on turf on Sunday morning in 1:03.60.

* Pleasantly Perfect, fourth in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 25 in his stakes debut, is being pointed to the $400,000 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park on Sept. 29. The Grade 2 Washington Park is run over 1 3/16 miles on dirt on the same track that will host the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 26.

* Jockey Brice Blanc has dropped an appeal of a five-day suspension for causing interference in the Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 21, a race he won aboard Grammarian. Blanc's suspension runs from Wednesday through Sunday, but allows him to ride in major stakes that are exempt from suspension.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen