Updated on 09/16/2011 8:54AM

Kudos ,'Pleasantly' forgotten but not gone

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In recent months, Kudos and Pleasantly Perfect have become forgotten members of the handicap division.

Kudos won the Oaklawn Handicap last April, but missed the rest of the year after undergoing surgery to have a bone chip removed from an ankle.

Pleasantly Perfect won the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap in October. He appeared on his way to the Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park, but he was not in compliance with the rules for bleeders in Illinois. Instead of going to the Breeders' Cup, Pleasantly Perfect earned a brief vacation.

Both Kudos and Pleasantly Perfect are in serious training and have a chance to reestablish their reputations at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting, which starts on Thursday.

Kudos may return in the San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 4. Pleasantly Perfect is being pointed for the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 2. Both horses are trained by Richard Mandella, who has the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap and the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 29 in mind for the pair.

Mandella thinks the recent time off might be a blessing in disguise for Pleasantly Perfect, a 5-year-old in 2003.

"It could be for the best," he said. "He's in great shape. He was in good shape when he went out other than the bleeding deal."

Kudos and Pleasantly Perfect are two of scores of stakes winners preparing for the Santa Anita meeting. In most divisions, there is a clear leader and familiar contenders aiming for major stakes. In the handicap division, the Mandella pair must contend with Congaree, the winner of the NYRA Mile; Milwaukee Brew, the winner of the 2002 Santa Anita Handicap; and Lido Palace, the winner of the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs last month. Also adding depth in the division are Continental Red, Hot Market, and Piensa Sonando.

Later in the meeting, there will be a cast of 4-year-olds ready to take them on. Several top soon-to-be 4-year-olds are starting in Thursday's $200,000 Malibu Stakes. One absent from the field is Medaglia d'Oro, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Classic, who is being pointed for the $400,000 Strub Stakes on Feb. 1. Trainer Bobby Frankel has the Dubai World Cup as Medaglia d'Oro's long-term goal. The Strub hopefuls also include Castle Gandolfo, Century City, and Sunday Break.

Aside from the Big Cap, the focus of the meeting are the races leading to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5. The California-based 3-year-olds this winter will be led by Vindication, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Arlington Park.

In coming months, his status as division leader will be challenged by Crackup, Empire Maker, Ghostzapper, Kafwain, Listen Indy, Roll Hennessy Roll, and others who will develop in coming weeks. The Santa Catalina Stakes on Jan. 18 and the San Rafael Stakes on March 1 will help determine the contenders for the Santa Anita Derby.

The 3-year-old fillies lack a standout following Elloluv's 30-1 upset of Composure in the Hollywood Starlet Stakes on Dec. 14. The Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 9 and the Santa Anita Oaks on March 8 are goals for those two, as well as for Atlantic Ocean, Puxa Saco, Sea Jewel, Santa Catarina, and Summer Wind Dancer.

The older fillies and mares lack a clear leader here. Azeri, the leading candidate for the 2002 Horse of the Year title, will be sold in March at a dispersal and is not expected to start at the meeting. Her absence leaves a void that could be filled by Affluent, Bella Bellucci, Cee's Elegance, Sightseek, or You. You will start in Saturday's La Brea Stakes and has the comfort of racing in the 4-year-old filly division through the La Canada Stakes on Feb. 8 before trying older fillies and mares in the Santa Margarita Handicap on March 9.

In the sprint division, Kona Gold, who turns 9 on Jan. 1, continues to command respect. He will start in the El Conejo Handicap on Jan. 1 against Avanzado, a New York stakes winner in the fall. Crafty C.T., Disturbingthepeace, and I Love Silver are capable of beating Kona Gold.

On turf, Golden Apples, the top contender for older turf female of 2002, is expected to run in the Santa Ana Handicap March 22 and the Santa Barbara Handicap April 19.

Frankel has a tremendous cast of turf females, including Surya, Tates Creek, and Sea of Showers, a recent allowance race winner. He also trains female turf sprinter Rolly Polly.

The turf male division appears to have more depth among the milers than the distance horses.

Good Journey, third in the Breeders' Cup Mile, is being pointed for the Frank Kilroe Mile on March 1. In that $400,000 race, he may face Medecis, a French stakes winner now trained by Mandella, and Night Patrol, the winner of the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile.

The distance division lacked a standout in 2002. Sligo Bay and Grammarian, the one-two finishers in the Hollywood Turf Cup; Johar, the winner of the Hollywood Derby; Ballingarry and The Tin Man, who were unplaced in the Breeders' Cup Turf; and Storming Home, a recent import from Europe, could take control of the division.

The meeting's top turf race is the $400,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf on April 20, the meet's closing day.