Updated on 09/15/2011 2:06PM

No more excuses for Morocco


ARCADIA, Calif. - Excuses, excuses, excuses. Funny thing is, handicappers analyzing the best race on the Oak Tree card Thursday may arrive at the sensible conclusion most of the alibis are legitimate. They are for Morocco.

Assistant trainer Gary Mandella said Morocco "may have had the worst trip at Del Mar of any of our horses."

He's not exaggerating. Morocco, dead last turning for home in a six-furlong sprint Aug. 17, was weaving deftly through traffic until his luck ran out at the eighth pole. He got stopped cold, and was blocked full of run the final sixteenth.

Was he best? Hard to say, but Morocco will get another chance in the seventh race Thursday, day two of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita. Morocco is one of several contenders in the three-other-than, optional $100,000 claimer at seven furlongs. To win, the Richard Mandella-trained Morocco must catch Reba's Gold.

While Morocco's trouble was visually conspicuous, Reba's Gold's trip was every bit as compromising when he raced a mile Sept. 3. Reba's Gold set the fastest fractions of the meet (44.87 seconds, 1:09.75), opened up in midstretch, and got nailed. The stakes-caliber pace figure he earned in the race suggests he could be awfully tough when he backs up to sprint.

Then there is Rapidough. He had been off three months with a bruised foot when he returned in the Morocco race. He chased the pace midpack, then flattened out. "To go in just off workouts, you're not going to be as good," trainer Bruce Headley said. "He needed the race."

Along with Impressive Grades, front-running Star Chief, rapidly improving Tavasco, and seven-length two-other-than winner I Love Silver, the seventh-race sprint shapes up as the best midweek allowance of summer. Yes, it is Sept. 27, but 100-degree heat in Southern California suggests autumn is weeks away.

Bettors looking for a short-price single may gravitate toward Blue Moon, who makes her California debut in the fourth race, a two-other-than turf route for fillies and mares.

Runner-up in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes last October, the 4-year-old Blue Moon, trained by Ron Ellis, is the class of the field. Ellis was asked if she can fire fresh.

"She's doing really good, she should be ready," he said. Ellis noted that the filly was ready at the end of Del Mar, but no races were available. "She's a tiny little filly, and she wants to run fresh," Ellis added. Her rivals include Madame Pietra, Slow Down, and Covincing.

Icantgoforthat and Shalihi are the principal contenders in the fifth, the $100,000 California Sires Filly division The drab stakes is expected to be discontinued after next fall.