08/22/2006 12:00AM

Nakatani shows heart after illness

Jockey Corey Nakatani, shown aboard Lava Man after their victory in the Pacific Classic on Sunday. The victory came just eight days after Nakatani was released from the hospital after being treated for a bacterial infection.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Campylobacter jejuni. It looks like what would print out if you smashed your fist on a keyboard. But those tongue-twisting words are the technical name for the bacteria that afflicted jockey Corey Nakatani two weeks ago, made him violently ill, and forced him to a hospital for five days of treatment.

Only eight days after being released from the hospital, Nakatani won the Pacific Classic on Sunday aboard Lava Man. Yet Nakatani admits he is still not back at full strength. He was so drained from Sunday's races that he took off the second of his two scheduled mounts Monday at Del Mar after riding his first mount.

"I'm still a little weak," Nakatani said Sunday, a couple of hours after riding Lava Man. "Being in intensive care a week ago, I'm not going to be at my strongest."

Despite missing a week of the meet, Nakatani still has been a force this summer at Del Mar. He is fourth in the jockey standings with 22 victories, and the $600,000 earned by Lava Man in the Pacific Classic put Nakatani atop the leader board for prize money among jockeys at Del Mar, with more than $2.1 million earned by his runners.

But according to Nakatani and his wife, Lisa, who is a nurse at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, Calif., Nakatani was in far more grave condition than most people realized.

"It ate a hole in part of his intestine," said Lisa Nakatani, referring to campylobacter jejuni. "He was extremely, extremely ill. Fortunately he had a top infectious disease doctor, who got right on top of it and got him the right antibiotics."

"She got me the best doctor there," said Corey Nakatani.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, campylobacter jejuni is a food-borne illness "associated with handling raw poultry or eating raw or undercooked poultry meat."

It "occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection," according to the CDC. Although it "doesn't commonly cause death, it has been estimated that approximately 100 persons with campylobacter infections may die each year."

"I'm happy to be here. Literally," Nakatani said.

Declan's Moon bled in Pat O'Brien

Declan's Moon, who finished last of eight in the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sunday, bled in the race and was also found to have a lung infection after the race, according to his trainer, Ron Ellis.

"There was a lot of mucus mixed in with the blood," Ellis said. "It's the kind of thing that doesn't show up until you run, and then it comes out. That part is pretty simple to solve."

Ellis said he was happy jockey Victor Espinoza did not persevere with Declan's Moon when he failed to keep pace on the far turn.

"Victor felt he wasn't going anywhere and wrapped up on him, which was the right thing to do," Ellis said.

Fourty Niners Son out of Del Mar Cap

Fourty Niners Son, who would have been one of the top contenders in the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap on Sunday, will miss the race with a minor injury, trainer Neil Drysdale said Tuesday morning.

"He's not going to run. He irritated an ankle," Drysdale said.

Fourty Niners Son most recently finished fourth, but then was moved back to fifth following a disqualification, in the Eddie Read Handicap on July 23. He won the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Invitational at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting last fall.

T.H. Approval, who most recently won the Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park, is the likely favorite in the Del Mar Handicap, which is run at 1 3/8 miles on turf. T.H. Approval was assigned top weight of 120 pounds, two more than Fourty Niners Son and Runaway Dancer.

In addition to Runaway Dancer and T.H. Approval, the Del Mar Handicap field is expected to include Artiste Royal, Cheroot, Leprechaun Kid, and Quinquin the King. Leprechaun Kid won the race last year.

Aragorn highweight for Del Mar Mile

Aragorn, who won the Eddie Read, has been assigned top weight of 123 pounds for the Grade 2, $400,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Mile on turf on Saturday.

Laura's Lucky Boy - who has not raced since last year's Breeders' Cup Turf - as well as Silent Name and Sweet Return, are next on the weights at 117 pounds. Those three are likely to be entered in the race, though all may not start.

"Even if I enter, I'm probably not going to run," said Gary Mandella, who trains Silent Name.

Others expected for the Del Mar BC Mile are Hendrix, Quasimodo, and Wild Buddy, and possibly Don Incauto and El Don.

Becrux, who was nominated to the race by Drysdale, has been sent to Woodbine for this weekend's seven-furlong Play the King Stakes, a prep for next month's Woodbine Mile.

Going for the green

All three stakes here this weekend are on the turf, beginning Friday with the $85,000-added CTT and Thoroughbred Owners of California Handicap at 1 3/8 miles for older fillies and mares.

Memorette, who won the Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park before finishing a close fifth in the John Mabee Handicap on July 22, is expected to head the field. She will carry top weight of 122 pounds, four more than Aubonne. Victor Espinoza, the meet's leading rider, has the call.

Besides Aubonne and Memorette, others expected for the race are Candy Factory, Immortalite, Sunny Disposition, and Tahtheeb.

* Giacomo came out of his fifth-place finish in the Pacific Classic in good shape and will be pointed to the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 7 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, trainer John Shirreffs said Tuesday. The Goodwood is expected to be Giacomo's penultimate start, before his career finale in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He goes to stud at the end of the year.

* Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Pacific Classic runner-up Good Reward, said Good Reward could make his next start in the Hawthorne Gold Cup or the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway.

* Jackson Fire, who was vanned from the turf course following the 10th and final race Sunday, suffered a non-life-threatening tendon injury. Jackson Fire was dropping from a victory in a second-level allowance into a $50,000 claimer.

* Here's hoping the couple that got engaged in the winner's circle after the fourth race on Sunday does not believe in omens. The race's winner was Big Mistake, a gelding by Broken Vow.