02/18/2009 12:00AM

The Pamplemousse sparkles in workout

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - The deluge that struck Santa Anita earlier this week left a few soggy spots on the main track on Wednesday morning, and though many trainers decided to hold off on workouts for a second straight day, trainer Julio Canani put his top 3-year-old The Pamplemousse through a critical six-furlong drill for next week's Sham Stakes, and he could not have been more impressive.

With his regular jockey, Alex Solis, aboard, The Pamplemousse effortlessly cruised through six furlongs on a gorgeous morning here. His official final time was 1:12.40 - Canani had him slightly faster - but the time was not nearly as important as the way in which The Pamplemousse did it. Canani, excitable when he wakes up, was dazzled, so much so that as soon as the work ended, he started spewing off a series of unprintable expletives, not in disgust, but in admiration.

"Did you see that?" is the G-rated version of what Canani said. "Look at him. He was just galloping. Thank God I don't got the fever."

He repeated "I don't got the fever" as he walked animatedly along the apron and past Clocker's Corner, where several fellow trainers pointed out that, indeed, he was getting the fever. Canani then waited near the top of the stretch, where The Pamplemousse walked by on his way back to the barn, never taking a deep breath.

"Everybody says the track is deep. Look at this horse," he said. "Look at this horse."

The Pamplemousse is coming off a front-running win last month in the San Rafael Stakes. He will be seeking his third straight victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Sham on Feb. 28, which will be his first race at 1 1/8 miles.

Solis said The Pamplemousse "felt like he was walking around there."

"He's getting stronger," Solis said. "I like what Julio is doing. He's letting him catch up with himself rather than forcing it. All his works, he does it in hand."

Keeping off the track

Only 17 horses recorded works at Santa Anita on Tuesday, and just 41 on Wednesday, as the main track, a Pro-Ride all-weather surface, continued to dry out following the heavy rain of last weekend.

"There's a wet spot at the three-eighths pole, and management has been very open about saying they needed one more day," said trainer Eoin Harty, who postponed scheduled works of Colonel John and Well Armed until Thursday. "I'm going to defer to their better judgment."

Richard Mandella was another trainer who decided to gallop and jog most of his horses.

"The track is still drying out," Mandella said. "I'll wait until [Thursday]. It took a pretty good beating."

There was no racing at Santa Anita on Wednesday, with the track taking two scheduled dark days following Monday's holiday card. After training hours were over on Wednesday, track maintenance crews were seen using heavy equipment to work on the surface between the three-eighths pole and five-sixteenths pole.

Country Star retired

Country Star, who was scratched from the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap on Saturday after acting up in the gate, has been retired, trainer Bobby Frankel said Wednesday.

Country Star, 4, had a history of gate problems, including an episode before last year's Ashland Stakes, in which she finished fifth. Although Country Star was not injured on Saturday, Frankel said that her owner, Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stable, "wanted to retire her."

"They think she's worth more as a broodmare," said Frankel, who said Country Star was scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Thursday. He did not know to whom she would be bred.

Darley acquired Country Star last year when it purchased Stonerside Stable, which bred and had owned Country Star.

Country Star, by the Frankel-trained Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, won three times in seven starts, her biggest wins coming at age 2 in the Alcibiades Stakes at Keeneland and the Hollywood Starlet. In her final start, she was second to Life Is Sweet in the El Encino Stakes here on Jan. 18.

Mandella prominent in maiden sprint

Friday's sixth race, a downhill turf sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-old maidens, drew several well-bred first-time starters, including two - Derive and El Rapido - trained by Mandella.

"They were training so good on the main track that I thought it would be unfair to the other trainers for me to run them on it, so I'm running them on turf," Mandella cracked.

Mandella said he was hoping Derive would like the turf, being as he is by Cozzene, a Breeders' Cup Mile winner. But he was more bullish on El Rapido, a son of Seeking the Gold who blew out three furlongs in 37 seconds Wednesday morning.

"He's been training pretty well," Mandella said. "He'll run whether the race is on turf or dirt. Derive, just turf."

High hopes for maiden

When the Mizzen Mast colt Nathaniel debuted last fall at Oak Tree, he was sent off at 7-2, but finished eighth of 12. Off nearly four months since, he returns on Friday in the third race, and switches to turf for trainer Mike Machowsky.

"He trained like a really nice horse going into that first race," Machowsky said Wednesday after Nathaniel worked three furlongs in 35.60 seconds. "But he stumbled, grabbed a quarter, and needed a couple of weeks off. His last three works have been super. As long as he likes the grass - and he's bred for it - he should run super."

New Bay steps up into San Felipe

New Bay, the winner of a six-furlong allowance race in Monday's third race, will make his stakes debut in the $200,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 14, said his trainer, Mandella.

Mandella considered Monday's San Vicente Stakes for New Bay, but opted for the easier allowance race. "He needed more experience," Mandella said. "I thought this would work out."

In Monday's race, New Bay rallied from fifth in a field of sixth to win by three-quarters of a length, finishing in 1:10.85.

The San Felipe, a major prep to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on Aprilo4, will be New Bay's first start at 1 1/16 miles.

"I'm getting the feeling that two turns will be better for him," Mandella said.

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, New Bay, by Cuvee, was purchased for $310,000 at the 2008 Ocala Breeders' sale of 2-year-olds in training. He made his debut with a fifth-place finish in a maiden race at Hollywood Park last November, and rebounded to win a seven-furlong maiden race by a nose on Jan. 10.

Tyler Baze gets days

Tyler Baze has been suspended for three days for causing interference in the fourth race last Friday. Baze was cited for his ride on Boule d'Or, the third-place finisher in a $10,000 claimer.

Boule d'Or moved to the inside in the stretch of the two-turn race, causing eventual eighth-place finisher Outrageous Limit to take up.

The suspension begins Saturday and ends on Wednesday.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen