08/06/2002 11:00PM

Next stop Pacific Classic for Came Home

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Came Home, the winner of five stakes this year, will meet older horses for the first time, and top 3-year-old War Emblem, in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 25.

Came Home has not started since winning the Swaps Stakes over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on July 14. The Pacific Classic will be his first start at 1 1/4 miles since he finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, losing by 10 1/4 lengths to War Emblem.

A victory in the Pacific Classic would give owners Bill Farish, John Goodman, Trudy McCaffery, and John Toffan more options for Came Home in the final months of the year.

"If he runs the way he ran in the Swaps, I'll be very happy," trainer Paco Gonzalez said. "The way he ran that race, I think he'll go a mile and a quarter.

"If he doesn't go a mile and a quarter, he can go a shorter distance. The good thing is there is plenty of time for another race."

After the Swaps, Came Home was considered for Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, won by War Emblem, but passed and was later a candidate for the King's Bishop Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters at Saratoga on Aug. 24. The decision to point for the Pacific Classic allows Came Home to remain in Southern California at his Hollywood Park base with Gonzalez.

War Emblem returned to Del Mar on Tuesday. Richard Mulhall, the racing manager for The Thorough-bred Corp., owner of War Emblem, said the Haskell was an easy race for War Emblem.

"It didn't take anything out of him," he said. "We'll point for the Pacific Classic."

Two 3-year-olds have won the Pacific Classic in its 11-year history: Best Pal (1991) and General Challenge (1999).

Stronach buys into 'Buffy'

A majority interest in Buffythecenterfold, who will be favored to win Saturday's $150,000 Sorrento Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, has been acquired by Frank Stronach, the chairman of Magna Entertainment.

The deal was completed on Tuesday, according to trainer Mel Stute. Stronach has acquired 70 percent, while Allen Brian, who bought the filly privately in March, will retain 30 percent.

Stute said Buffythecenterfold will stay with him through Saturday's race, but said long-term plans were unclear.

Stronach was the second buyer to look at Buffythecenterfold. Last weekend, a potential sale fell through to a Kentucky owner, Stute said.

Kona Gold will wait for Breeders' Cup

Kona Gold, the 2000 champion sprinter, is unlikely to start until the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington Park on Oct. 26. Following a half-mile workout in 47.80 seconds on Wednesday, trainer Bruce Headley said that Kona Gold will not be ready for the $150,000 Pat O'Brien Handicap over seven furlongs on Aug. 18.

"I think I'm a little behind," he said. "I'm not really training for seven-eighths."

Kona Gold has not started since finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 6. He was scratched as the morning-line favorite from the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap here on July 27.

Headley said he is comfortable passing the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 5 and going straight to the Breeders' Cup. The 8-year-old Kona Gold will be attempting to start in the Breeders' Cup Sprint for a record fifth time.

"I've trained him up to a lot of big races," Headley said.

Last year, Kona Gold was off for 3 1/2 months between wins in the Potrero Grande Handicap at Santa Anita and the Bing Crosby Handicap here.

Crowds and handle rise

Through the first two weeks of the Del Mar meeting, average attendance and handle figures were showing strong gains over last season.

The average ontrack attendance of 17,024 was up 5.1 percent, while ontrack handle was $2,526,365, a gain of 12.3 percent. The overall average handle of $11,874,497 showed a gain of 11.4 percent. All figures also are increases from the 2000 meeting.

Track officials report that $7.026 million of the total handle of $142,493,968 from the current meeting has come from advance deposit wagering, which was not legalized until earlier this year.

Del Mar may not have as strong a finish. Unlike recent seasons, when the meeting ended on the Wednesday following Labor Day, this year there will be seven days of racing following Labor Day, a time when many people are no longer on vacation and schools have resumed.

Cup may not be in their cards

Two horses who appear in pools for the Breeders' Cup future wager this weekend may not make the championship day on Oct. 26.

Continental Red, listed in betting for the Turf, would have to be supplemented at a cost of $180,000, and Tout Charmant, listed at 30-1 on the morning line in the Filly and Mare Turf, may not be ready for top-class competition by late October.

Continental Red, the winner of the San Luis Rey Handicap last March at Santa Anita, is being pointed for the Del Mar Handicap on Sept. 1, according to his breeder, Wes Fitzpatrick. Continental Red races in the name of Fitzpatrick's wife, Sharon.

At this point, the Breeders' Cup is not in their plans.

"I'd have to supplement and it's very unlikely that will happen," Wes Fitzpatrick said.

Tout Charmant has resumed training after failing to get into foal earlier this year. She has yet to a breeze, according to trainer Ron McAnally.

"I don't think it will take her too long to get ready," McAnally said.

McAnally declined to speculate whether Tout Charmant would be ready for the Breeders' Cup.

One California-based turf horse not on the Breeders' Cup Mile list is Special Ring, who set a course record of 1:32.72 for a mile on turf in the Wickerr Handicap on Aug. 2.

Special Ring will not start in the Atto Mile at Woodbine in September, but is being pointed for the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 5, according to trainer Julio Canani. Canani mentioned that Special Ring could return for the $75,000 Live the Dream Handicap on Sept. 11, the closing day of this meeting.

Canani has won two of the last three runnings of the Breeders' Cup Mile with Silic (1999) and Val Royal (2001).