08/11/2005 11:00PM

La Croix's small stable holds two rising stars

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer David La Croix has just eight horses in training this summer at Del Mar, but his stable may have the largest say in the meeting's 2-year-old stakes.

La Croix won the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes with Bully Bones on Aug. 6, and Bully Bones is headed to the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 27. Sunday, La Croix starts Corazondelcampeon in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes for 2-year-olds.

If he runs well, Corazondelcampeon will be bound for the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7, putting La Croix in position to try for the rare Debutante-Futurity double.

The milestone has been accomplished 11 times in track history, and La Croix would love to be the 12th with two members of his small barn.

"Wouldn't that be something?" he said. "That would be nice. I've got to keep up with the Bafferts. All along we looked like we had a good 2-year-old filly and colt, but a lot of times they get hurt and they don't pan out."

While trainer Bob Baffert has accomplished the double a record four times, he is not the last. Richard Mandella won the 2003 Debutante with Halfbridled and the Futurity with Siphonizer.

Bully Bones and Corazondelcampeon will find themselves in a fight to win those major stakes, but Bully Bones is already battle-tested. Unbeaten in two starts, she fought through the stretch of the Sorrento to win her first race in 3 1/2 months.

Corazondelcampeon can politely be described as a spirited colt.

Owned by veterinarian Scott Merrell, Corazondelcampeon was supposed to make his first start in the Proctor Stakes at Hollywood Park on May 22, but he became unruly in the post parade and was scratched. A week later, he won a maiden race by six lengths, starting slowly but finishing quick.

"He made up for it in the maiden race," La Croix said of the scratch in the Proctor.

A start in the circuit's next stakes, the Haggin in June, never materialized after the race was canceled because of insufficient entries.

"I think he definitely would have won that race," La Croix said. "There wasn't a whole lot in there. We were very disappointed that the Haggin didn't go."

A splint bone injury kept Corazondelcampeon out of training for two weeks.

"He's been training well here," La Croix said. "We need to get a race into him before the Futurity."

The injury prevented Corazondelcampeon from starting in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 16. The first two finishers in that race - What a Song and Bashert - are top contenders for the Best Pal.

The 2-year-olds have revived La Croix's stable. Bully Bones was La Croix's first stakes winner since Fonz's won the Hollywood Prevue Stakes in November 2001.

La Croix, 51, says his stable size has been affected by his business dealings in the sport. He said that he and his mother, Barbara, are in the process of selling their Ocala, Fla., farm and are seeking a smaller farm in that area.

"I usually have more horses, but I've been tied up," he said.

La Croix has never had a bunch of horses. He is well known for selling prospects, often when they are 2. A smaller stable has given him a chance to adjust his perspective.

"I hope to keep it like this," he said. "I'll go for quality. Over the years, I brought a lot out and a few haven't panned out. I want them to fit here."

This summer, his juveniles certainly have accomplished that.