04/09/2003 11:00PM

Mandella's walking wounded to run soon

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Several of trainer Richard Mandella's top older horses have mended from minor setbacks and are aiming for stakes races at Hollywood Park and beyond.

Pleasantly Perfect has recovered from a foot problem that surfaced after his fourth-place in the Santa Anita Handicap.

"He had a little bruise that surfaced that we cut out," Mandella said.

Winner of the Goodwood Handicap last fall, Pleasantly Perfect will aim for the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap on May 10 at Hollywood Park.

Grade 1 turf winner The Tin Man, who got sick and missed the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Handicap on May 15, is aiming for the $400,000 Jim Murray Handicap, also on May 10 at Hollywood. Redattore, knocked out of the Explosive Bid Handicap at Fair Grounds when he got sick after shipping to Louisiana, has resumed training and will aim for the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on May 26. Mandella said Kudos, third in the Oaklawn Handicap, could run in handicap division races at Hollywood or Churchill Downs.

Noches De Rosa, upset winner of the Grade 2 Santa Ana Handicap on March 22, worked seven furlongs Thursday in company with comebacker Palmarola. Noches De Rosa runs next Saturday in the Santa Barbara; Palmarola will ship out of town for her next start. Palmarola earned a 107 Beyer winning an allowance last summer at Hollywood, followed with a Sept. 11 win in a minor stakes at Del Mar, then had a serious case of colic that required stomach surgery for removal of some intestine. The 6-year-old Palmarola has recovered, is working well, and Mandella said she could ship to Churchill Downs for the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on the Kentucky Derby undercard. Noches De Rosa and Palmarola were timed in 1:28, breezing.

General Challenge targets comeback race

General Challenge, who has not raced since Aug. 26, 2000, continued toward a comeback with a five-furlong drill Thursday in 59.40 seconds for trainer Bob Baffert. The 7-year-old General Challenge was nominated to the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 26 and Baffert said: "He should be ready by then. He's doing good, he looks good."

General Challenge has won nine races and $2.8 million from 18 starts. A sprint comeback at Hollywood would complete the circle for General Challenge. He began his career at Hollywood on Nov. 28, 1998, when he won a California-bred maiden race on a wet-fast track. The Tiznow, at 7 1/2 furlongs, is a new addition to the stakes schedule on Hollywood's Gold Rush Day for California-breds, April 26. Others nominated to the race are Debonair Joe, Disturbingthepeace, Grey Memo, Joey Franco, and Swordfish.

Baffert also worked Bull Market a half-mile in 49.40 as the 3-year-old prepares for a summer campaign. Bull Market has not raced since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Baffert said Tough Game, runner-up with a tough trip in an allowance race March 22, is likely to show up in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs Handicap on Derby Day.

Excessive Barb will switch to dirt

Excessive Barb will run on grass Saturday, at either Bay Meadows or Santa Anita. The main goal, however, according to Excessive Barb's trainer, Craig Lewis, is a dirt race at Hollywood. Excessive Barb entered the La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita, and the California Derby at Bay Meadows with the intent of using a grass start Saturday as a bridge toward the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes on the Gold Rush card.

Foot trouble derailed Excessive Barb after he finished second in the California Cup Juvenile in fall, and Lewis said his seventh-place finish Feb. 23 in the Baldwin Stakes (won by Buddy Gil) was partly because "he needed the race." Excessive Barb is one of several Lewis trainees pointing for the Gold Rush card. Lewis also has Swordfish for the $150,000 Tiznow; Valentine Dancer for the $200,000 Melair; recent allowance winner Raise Expectations for a turf stakes or allowance sprint; and comebacker Cold Market for a $60,000 maiden stakes.

McCann's Mojave will miss Snow Chief

The Snow Chief has lost one of its key starters. McCann's Mojave, a son of Memo who has won all three starts, will be forced to miss the Snow Chief, according to trainer Leonard Dorfman.

McCann's Mojave "has some heat in his knees. He's never been lame or anything like that, but he's going to need some time," Dorfman said.

Miss Pitz wins U.S. debut on turf

San Luis Rey Handicap winner Champion Lodge emerged this winter as a star for trainer Sandy Shulman and owners Ron Charles and Clear Valley Stables, and the momentum has carried to lower class levels.

Wednesday, European import Miss Pitz scored for the Shulman-Charles-Clear Valley team when she rallied from last to win a $62,500 turf claimer in her U.S. debut. The $18 upset was jockey Jose Valdivia's only mount on the card.

Miss Pitz, a 5-year-old mare, was purchased in Europe for approximately $30,000. She earned $31,200 Wednesday, and came out of the race so well she was nominated for the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap, to be run next Saturday. Shulman admits the class hike is formidable, but expectations will be significantly higher when Champion Lodge runs next Sunday in the Grade 1, $400,000 San Juan Capistrano.

"He's doing great," Shulman said. "We hope it rains next weekend, not this weekend."

The Santa Anita turf was yielding when Champion Lodge won the San Luis Rey by six lengths on March 15. The 6-year-old Champion Lodge is scheduled for an easy five-furlong work on Sunday.

* Trainer Barry Abrams escaped serious injury Wednesday in a bloody paddock incident that left Abrams with 10 stitches on his forehead. Abrams was saddling the maiden-claiming filly The Toast of Troy when she head-butted Abrams.

"We had a head-to-head collision and the filly won," Abrams said Thursday.