08/17/2004 11:00PM

Mandella looks to his big gun

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Pleasantly Perfect, with exercise rider Cheryl Brown aboard, surveys the scene at Del Mar Wednesday morning.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer Richard Mandella may need his top horse, Pleasantly Perfect, to provide the stable with its first win of the Del Mar meeting this weekend.

Through Wednesday, Mandella was winless with 13 starters, which included five seconds and two third-place finishes. One of the runner-up finishes came from Pleasantly Perfect in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap on Aug. 1.

"I'm just hoping I have a win," Mandella joked Wednesday.

Sunday, Pleasantly Perfect will start as the favorite in the $1 million Pacific Classic, a race that can confirm his status as the leading older horse in the nation. A 6-year-old, Pleasantly Perfect won the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup in March. The San Diego was his first start since the Dubai World Cup.

Pleasantly Perfect is one of eight horses expected to be entered for the Pacific Classic, run over 1 1/4 miles. Post positions were scheduled to be drawn Wednesday evening. The other entrants are Choctaw Nation, Colonial Colony, During, El Elogiado, Night Patrol, Perfect Drift, and Total Impact.

Pleasantly Perfect finished three-quarters of a length behind Choctaw Nation in the San Diego. Pleasantly Perfect raced near the pace, led by 1 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole, and was caught in the final sixteenth.

Mandella said he expects a better run from Pleasantly Perfect in the Pacific Classic.

"He ran good in his last race," Mandella said. "I had him a little fresh and he's settled down since then."

Desormeaux has week of highs, lows

There have not been many weeks like last week in jockey Kent Desormeaux's life.

On Monday, he was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. Saturday, he won the Arlington Million aboard Kicken Kris, who was promoted from second to first after the disqualification of Powerscourt. Sunday, he was unseated from Wetherly when Wetherly broke down badly in the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

The split second when Desormeaux jumped off a falling Wetherly remained a vivid memory Wednesday. Desormeaux recalls being concerned not only about falling clear of Wetherly, but also about being in the path of Roman Ruler, who was racing behind him.

"I knew he was back there, but I couldn't find him," Desormeaux said, recalling the moment that he jumped. "I tried to spring away even further out."

Desormeaux jumped to his right; Roman Ruler ran through a patch of ground between Desormeaux and the stricken Wetherly.

Desormeaux sprained his pinkie in the spill, and Wetherly could not be saved after the race.

This weekend, Desormeaux rides Ticker Tape in the Saturday's $300,000 Del Mar Oaks and the longshot El Elogiado in the Pacific Classic.

Desormeaux was aboard Ticker Tape when she pulled an upset in the American Oaks over 1 1/4 miles on turf July 3. The Del Mar Oaks is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf, but the distance does not concern Desormeaux.

"It's not a problem," he said. "Her style fits Del Mar; she has an explosive kick."

Weight too much for Ema Bovary

Ema Bovary, the nation's top female sprinter, will not start in Saturday's $150,000 Rancho Bernardo Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs. Trainer Larry Ross said the 123-pound weight assignment was more than he wants Ema Bovary to carry.

Ross said Ema Bovary may start in the $250,000 Ballerina Handicap, a Grade 1 over seven furlongs at Saratoga on Aug. 29.

Ema Bovary's 123-pound assignment was five to 10 pounds more than the other eight fillies and mares nominated to the Rancho Bernardo. Her absence will give the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo a few more starters.

The candidates include Dream of Summer, Coconut Girl, Cyber Slew, Icantgoforthat, and Barbara Orr.

Ema Bovary won the Grade 2 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder on July 10, her ninth stakes win since arriving from Chile in late 2002. She will race next year and will be given a break this fall, Ross said.

"She'll get a break whether she wants one or not," Ross said. "We'll let her down a little. You have to give her a break sometime. We'd like to run her next year."

Hendricks back at the barn

Trainer Dan Hendricks, who suffered paralysis from the waist down in a motorcycle accident last month, visited the barn for the first time since the accident Tuesday.

Hendricks, currently undergoing physical therapy, has been directing the stable from a local hospital where he is undergoing rehabilitation for a spinal cord injury.

According to his wife, Samantha, who has worked at the barn since the accident, Dan had a tour of the barn from his wheelchair. "The cat was the only thing scared of him," she said.

Samantha Hendricks said Dan will make more frequent trips to the barn in coming weeks once the family purchases a van that can accommodate a wheelchair.

Rock Hard Ten gets a rest

Rock Hard Ten will not start in the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 28, co-owner Ernie Moody said earlier this week.

The winner of the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park last month, Rock Hard Ten will be given a brief rest at Moody's San Diego County farm before resuming racing this year. There is a chance Rock Hard Ten could still start in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30, but Moody said Rock Hard Ten must run well in a prep race to be considered.

"We'll take him to the farm for the next couple of weeks and let him freshen up," Moody said. "If he comes back, we'll look at the Breeders' Cup. I'd like to feel confident before I put him in a big race."

Trained by Jason Orman and co-owned by Madeleine Paulson, Rock Hard Ten finished sixth as the favorite in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 8. Rock Hard Ten has won 3 of 7 starts and $640,380. He was second to Smarty Jones in the Preakness Stakes last May and fifth in the Belmont Stakes.

"I'd like to let him develop a little more," Moody said. "We'd like to run him next year as a 4-year-old."