08/23/2004 11:00PM

Mitchell throws one-two punch

Benoit & Associates
Star Over the Bay leads the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap wire to wire in July, two months after he was claimed for $80,000 by trainer Mike Mitchell.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Mike Mitchell's summer at Del Mar already has reached the pinnacle, what with the trainer capturing his first Grade 1 race and sweeping the track's sprint stakes with Kela. Mitchell has 11 victories, which places him fourth in the standings. Mitchell always has thrived at Del Mar. He has been the leading trainer at this track six times, first in 1981.

On Sunday, Mitchell will try to keep the good karma rolling in the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap, a 1 3/8-mile grass race for older horses. He will send out two horses in the race, Star Over the Bay and Murano, both of whom were claimed in recent months.

Both Star Over the Bay and Murano had their final works on Tuesday in preparation for Sunday's race. Star Over the Bay was timed in 1:13.40 for six furlongs, while Murano went five furlongs in 1:00.80. Both works were on the main track. Exercise rider George Alvarez was on both horses.

"They both worked terrific," Mitchell said later at his barn.

"I couldn't be any more pleased. Star Over the Bay went at a nice, easy clip. I didn't work them in company because Star Over the Bay gets too tough when you work him in company. They complement each other well in the race. One will be on the lead, the other coming from out of it."

Star Over the Bay led from start to finish in the 1 1/2-mile Sunset Handicap on July 18 at Hollywood Park. Murano comes from well off the pace.

Star Over the Bay was claimed in May for $80,000. "He had won for $62,500, and I loved his race," Mitchell said. "He reminded me of a horse I used to train, Kessem Power. It was like he had another gear. They ran him back in a starter race on dirt. That made me feel good, because I felt he must be sound, there's no chance of losing him. He didn't run that well, but I threw the race out because it was on dirt. Then he showed up for $80,000."

Star Over the Bay made his first start for Mitchell in the Dallas Turf Cup, in which he finished second. He then came back to capture the Sunset.

"He's a dream to train," Mitchell said. "He's nice and quiet in his stall, but he's serious on the track."

Murano was claimed for $62,500 out of a win going 1 1/8 miles here on Aug. 14.

"We probably wouldn't have claimed him if we hadn't lost so many horses this meet and had the money sitting there," Mitchell said. "There were four horses in that race in for a tag. Two looked interesting, but he looked really good. He's a nice, sound horse."

The Del Mar Handicap is a big jump in class for Murano, but Mitchell said the distance "is perfect for him."

"And he gets in with 112 pounds," Mitchell said.

Star Over the Bay was assigned 121 pounds. He may end up being the starting highweight in the race, because trainer Richard Mandella on Tuesday said he may bypass the race with The Tin Man.

The field is expected to be Continuously (Kent Desormeaux to ride), Dimitrova (Victor Espinoza), Gene de Campeao (Omar Berrio), Mananan McLir (David Flores), Moscow Burning (Jose Valdivia Jr.), Murano (Javier Santiago), Sarafan (Corey Nakatani), and Star Over the Bay (Tyler Baze). The Tin Man (Mike Smith) is possible.

The Tin Man may need time

The Tin Man returned from a 9 1/2-month layoff to finish third in a money allowance race going one mile on Aug. 12. Mandella said he is concerned that wasn't enough to get The Tin Man ready to travel another three furlongs 17 days later.

"I don't know if he's ready to go a mile and three-eighths off that one little race," Mandella said. "He's a gelding, and we want to keep him around for awhile. I don't have to do anything. I just want to keep him around. The Clement Hirsch is the big goal with him right now."

The Clement Hirsch, at 1 1/4 miles, is run during Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. The Tin Man won that race in 2002.

The Tin Man was assigned top weight of 122 pounds for the Del Mar Handicap.

Major stakes next for Stage Shy

Stage Shy's easy three-length victory in Monday's $75,000 allowance feature earned her the right to face the best female turf runners in the land in upcoming starts, according to her trainer, Neil Drysdale.

"The Yellow Ribbon, Flower Bowl, races like that," Drysdale said.

Stage Shy has won three times in four starts since being repatriated from Great Britain. A 4-year-old daughter of Theatrical, she is owned by the estate of the late Robert Sangster.

In Monday's race, Stage Shy breezed past five overmatched rivals going 1 3/8 miles.

Drysdale also won Monday's first race, with Haka Girl, a 2-year-old filly by War Chant, with whom Drysdale won the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile.

"He gives every appearance of making it as a stallion," Drysdale said of War Chant. "He had a stakes winner in France the other day, a filly against the boys. Physically, this filly is more developed than he was at this stage. He was a late foal."

* Fusaichi Rock Star, a recent maiden winner who will make his next start in the Sept. 8 Del Mar Futurity, flew through six furlongs in 1:10.40 on Tuesday morning for trainer Bob Baffert. The time was the best of seven at the distance. Another Baffert 2-year-old, Compulsive, worked a half-mile in 47.20 seconds. He also could run in the Futurity, Baffert said.

* Blackdoun, already a two-time stakes winner at the meet, worked three furlongs in 37.40 seconds in preparation for the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 6.

* With two weeks remaining in the meet, Baze leads the jockey standings with 41 victories, seven more than Nakatani, who closed the gap on Monday with a double. Jeff Mullins and Doug O'Neill are in a tight battle for the training title, with Mullins currently leading 22-20.

* Jockey Felipe Martinez took off his mounts Sunday and Monday because of a groin injury.