08/24/2008 11:00PM

Midnight Lute's plans put on hold


DEL MAR, Calif. - The wait was not worth it. Midnight Lute, the 2007 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter, took nine months to get back to the races, but nothing went right for him in the Pat O'Brien Handicap on Sunday at Del Mar. He was uncomfortable in the gate, broke poorly, was caught in traffic most of the race, and never got a chance to run, finishing 10th of 12 as the 4-5 favorite.

Things were not any better Monday. Midnight Lute tore up the back part of his left front foot so badly in the race that his trainer, Bob Baffert, said Monday that any plans for Midnight Lute are on hold.

"He's really sore today," Baffert said. "He grabbed a quarter and ripped off the shoe. It's a pretty deep grab. That foot deal is going to take at least 10 days to clear up."

Asked if Midnight Lute might be well enough to come back Sept. 27 in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park - a race that would allow Midnight Lute to return to dirt - Baffert said, "No way."

"Not the way it looked today," Baffert said. "You're not supposed to be that sore. He looked good after the race, but today he's not good on it."

Midnight Lute looked sensational in the paddock.

"He was fired up," Baffert said.

But Midnight Lute, one of the largest horses on the grounds, was not settled in the starting gate and needed to be backed out before the start.

"He's claustrophobic in the gate. He's so big," Baffert said.

Then, in the race, the field remained bunched, and with Midnight Lute having started from an inside post, he never could get outside for a clear run.

At the eighth pole, his rider, Garrett Gomez, wrapped up on Midnight Lute.

"He took care of him," Baffert said. "The whole thing was so disappointing."

Sadler makes plans for stakes winners

Gomez was the riding star on Pacific Classic Day, with wins in two of the four graded stakes, the Pacific Classic and the Del Mar Mile. John Sadler, the meet's leading trainer, took training honors, with victories by Whatsthescript in the Del Mar Mile and Dearest Trickski in the Rancho Bernardo Handicap.

Both horses, Sadler said Monday, will be aimed for their respective Breeders' Cup races, the BC Mile for Whasthescript, and the BC Filly and Mare Sprint for Dearest Trickski. Both horses, with their wins Sunday, earned automatic berths into those BC races through the Win and You're In program.

Whatsthescript will make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Oak Tree Mile on Sept. 28 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, Sadler said.

"We'll probably do something like that," Sadler said. "I was really happy with his race. When I looked up and saw the first half-mile was run in 46 seconds, I was happy. He got pace, which is huge for him."

Dearest Trickski likely will head straight to the Breeders' Cup, in part because there is no graded stakes on the dirt for fillies and mares during the first part of the Oak Tree meeting that would serve as an ideal prep.

"She was a little tired after the race," Sadler said. "It's fine going straight to the Breeders' Cup, because she does well with that kind of spacing."

Dearest Trickski was claimed for $32,000 at this meet one year ago. Since then, she has won seven times in eight starts, with six of those wins coming on synthetic surfaces.

Asked if he ever imagined Dearest Trickski would be this good - she has won three graded stakes, including a Grade 1 - Sadler laughed.

"No! No! Clearly no!" he said.

Classic business down from last year

Both ontrack attendance and overall handle for Pacific Classic Day were down from a year ago. Both days were Sundays, but last year, the races began at an earlier time, rather than the regular 2 p.m. Pacific. That may have impacted the attendance from Los Angeles-area residents this year who needed to work Monday, because traffic heading north on I-5 on Sunday is brutal.

Attendance on Sunday was 30,142, down 14.7 percent from last year's 35,320. The attendance has been above 30,000 each of the past seven years.

Handle was $23,436,063, down 5.2 percent from last year's $24,667,351, which was a record for Pacific Classic Day. This year's handle was the third-highest in the 18-year history of the Pacific Classic.P

McCann's Mojave injures tendon

McCann's Mojave, winner of the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic in 2007, was scratched from Sunday's Pacific Classic because of a tendon injury, trainer Steve Specht said.

The injury was detected on the morning of the race. McCann's Mojave had been galloping in the days before the race, Specht said.

Specht said the severity of the injury was unclear, pending further tests.

"He had a little filling in a tendon, something that's never been there before," Specht said. "We had the vet scan it, and he's done some damage to it. It was slight, but we couldn't take the chance to run him."

Owned by Mike Willman, McCann's Mojave, 8, has won 12 of 35 starts and $1,513,565. He won the Grade 3 Berkeley Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, his only victory in five starts this year. McCann's Mojave was fourth in the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 28 in his most recent start.

Saucey Evening to Del Mar Debutante

Saucey Evening, second in the CTBA Stakes on July 18, will start in Monday's $250,000 Del Mar Debutante, trainer Graham Motion said. Motion had considered Wednesday's $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes for Saucey Evening, but opted for the more lucrative and prestigious Grade 1 Debutante.

"She seems she would not be too out of her depth in the Debutante," he said. "If she could be placed in a Grade 1, it would be great. I think seven furlongs is a good fit for her."

Saucey Evening will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, Motion said.

The Debutante will have a large field. The probable starters include Emmy Darling, Empressive Lady, Evita Argentina, Montana Fields, Palacio de Amor, Stardom Bound, Trifecta King, and Turtle Creek Babe.

Bernstein doubles up on Saturday

Saturday afternoon was the highlight of trainer David Bernstein's 2008. Bernstein had two winners, doubling his total for the year.

Bernstein won the sixth race for $32,000 claimers with Return of the King ($12.80) and the ninth race for female maidens with Date With Fate ($11).

Date With Fate closed from eighth to win the six-furlong ninth race by a half-length, leaving Bernstein and owner-breeders Don and Judi Barber hopeful the filly will be effective in longer races.

"The filly acts like she might be nice going long," Bernstein said. "She's lightly raced and is green."

Bernstein, best known as the trainer of 1994 champion older male The Wicked North, arrived at Del Mar with a three-stall allotment, which grew to five. He has claimed a few horses in recent weeks and now has eight horses.

Bernstein, 68, considers Return of the King to be the "old warrior" of the barn.

"He has his days and one of them was Saturday," he said.

Wednesday, Bernstein has one runner, the first-time starter Kathie Tizalady. He was encouraged by her Saturday workout in 35.40 seconds from the gate, the fastest of 14 works at the distance. But Bernstein cautioned that her training has not been ideal.

"I've had a heck of a time getting weight off of her," he said. "We'll have to see how far she can run."

Juvenile winners to Santa Anita stakes

The winners of the two maiden races for 2-year-olds on Sunday are expected to start in graded stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 27-28.

Toro Bonito, trained by Bob Baffert, won the second start of her career in the second race, running six furlongs in 1:10.07. She is a candidate for the $250,000 Oak Leaf Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 27.

"She needed the first out," Baffert said. "She ran on well" on Sunday.

Majormotionpicture won his debut in the fourth race, which will lead to a start in the $250,000 Norfolk Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 28, trainer Mike Machowsky said. Majormotionpicture ran six furlongs in 1:10.37.

"He's always trained like he's special, very special," Machowsky said. "All of his works have been so easy."

Bell facing possible sanctions

Trainer Ray Bell faces a possible sanction from the California Horse Racing Board after one of his starters, Zanda Blue, tested above the permitted amount of procaine, an anesthetic, the racing board announced over the weekend.

Zanda Blue won the first race at Hollywood Park on July 2, a claiming race for maidens with a $25,000 purse.

A hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday. Bell faces a possible fine and/or suspension and a forfeiture of the purse.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen