09/04/2003 11:00PM

Perfect Moon gets new owner, trainer


DEL MAR, Calif. - Perfect Moon, the winner of two graded stakes this summer and a top contender for Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity, was sold on Friday to Royce Jaime. After the sale, Perfect Moon was transferred from trainer Mel Stute to Doug O'Neill.

The deal was finalized early Friday morning after three days of negotiations and veterinary examinations. The sale price was not revealed, but O'Neill said it was in the "mid-six figures."

Perfect Moon won 3 of 7 starts and $183,870 racing for The Hat Ranch and Stute's wife, Annabelle.

Perfect Moon won his maiden in a $40,000 claiming race in his fourth career start, at Hollywood Park on May 14. In three subsequent stakes, Perfect Moon finished second in the Haggin Stakes at Hollywood Park, then won the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship and the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.

"We think we made a good purchase for a sprinter," O'Neill said. "It's a great purchase if he can route."

Jaime, of Alta Loma, Calif., has campaigned several horses with O'Neill in recent seasons and is looking to increase the quality of his stable.

"He was looking to find something to purchase for the bigger races," O'Neill said. "He was looking for something that was proven."

Field of six likely for Futurity

Perfect Moon is one of six candidates for the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, run over seven furlongs.

The race lost a potential starter when Listenforthetruth was injured in a workout recently at Santa Anita. Trained by Derek Meredith, Listenforthetruth won a maiden race by a head in his first career start on Aug. 9.

Listenforthetruth underwent surgery to have eight screws inserted into his right foreleg. "The prognosis is that he can return to the races again," Meredith said.

The Del Mar Futurity probables include Capitano, Cooperation, Gulf of Mexico, Minister Eric, and Siphonizer. Pioneerman, a California-bred, may be entered, but is more likely to start in Monday's $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes for California-breds, trainer A.C. Avila said.

On Friday, Gulf of Mexico worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds and Siphonizer was timed in 1:01.20.

Siphonizer won his maiden over 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 2, finishing a half-length in front of Cooperation and 5 1/2 lengths clear of stablemate Minister Eric. Cooperation returned to beat maidens by seven lengths on Aug. 17, while Minister Eric beat maidens on Aug. 24.

Siphonizer is trained by Richard Mandella, who said he was impressed that the colt won despite a wide trip.

"I thought he had a tough trip the other day and didn't show his best," Mandella said. "He's got to improve and he's got to be good enough."

Mandella also trains Minister Eric. Mandella already won the top 2-year-old filly race of the meeting, the Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 30, with Halfbridled.

Gulf of Mexico, trained by Eoin Harty, beat maidens in his career debut on Aug. 18, drawing off by 4 1/2 lengths.

Adoration returns in style

Adoration returned from a layoff of more than seven months on Thursday to win the $81,200 Piedra Foundation Handicap, her third career stakes victory.

While trainer David Hofmans was impressed by the win, he said it was doubtful Adoration would run against Horse of the Year Azeri in the $300,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oak Tree at Santa Anita Sept. 28.

Adoration led or disputed the pace with Royally Chosen throughout Thursday's one-mile race. The two horses were only a head apart through the stretch; Adoration won by a nose in 1:35.59.

"She's never run that good against that kind of fillies," Hofmans said. "That was an impressive race."

Owned by Amerman Racing, Adoration won the Senorita Stakes and Hollywood Oaks in 2002, but lost five consecutive stakes before being turned out in January.

"There was nothing wrong with her," Hofmans said. "We decided to give her a break and freshen her up for the summer and fall. She's a young horse and we said, 'Let's stop.'"

McCaffery and Lewis join Oak Tree board

Prominent horse owners Bob Lewis and Trudy McCaffery have joined the board of directors of the Oak Tree Racing Association.

Oak Tree leases Santa Anita for an annual fall race meeting, which this year includes the Breeder's Cup on Oct. 25.

Lewis and his wife Beverly have campaigned numerous stakes winners, including Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners Silver Charm (1997) and Charismatic (1999). Previously, Lewis was chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California.

McCaffery, a member of the board of directors of the TOC and California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, has co-owned such prominent runners as Bienamado, Came Home, and Free House in recent years.

Miss Houdini tops Torrey Pines

Miss Houdini, the winner of last year's Del Mar Debutante, makes her second start since returning from a layoff of nearly one year when she heads the field in Sunday's $75,000 Torrey Pines Stakes, the day's supporting feature.

Miss Houdini suffered a tendon injury shortly after last year's Debutante. She returned in a six-furlong allowance race on Aug. 10 and finished second in what proved to be a fast race for the level.

She will be stretching out around two turns for the first time in the one-mile Torrey Pines. Her trainer, Warren Stute, has left little to chance. In the four weeks since her comeback race, Miss Houdini has twice worked one mile.

"She ran like a short horse in her comeback. I didn't think she was short before the race, so hopefully she needed it," Stute said Friday morning. "I hate to run a short horse. She ran like it, so that could have been it."

The Torrey Pines will determine if Miss Houdini can reach back and return to near her past form, or if she has not come back as well as she left. She faces seven challengers, only one of whom poses a serious threat. That is Victory Encounter, who has won all four of her two-turn dirt races. Another top contender is Tucked Away, who closed strongly to win the seven-furlong Fleet Treat Stakes in her last start.

Valdivia hires Knust as agent

When agent Tom Knust was fired 1 1/2 weeks ago by Kent Desormeaux, a former agent of Desormeaux's, Tony Matos, went out of his way to praise Knust.

On Friday, Knust picked up a new client in Jose Valdivia Jr., who had been represented most recently by Matos. "I guess he liked what I said," Matos said Friday.

Knust will begin working for Valdivia upon the close of Del Mar's meeting on Wednesday. Matos still represents Victor Espinoza, currently third in the jockey standings at Del Mar, with 33 victories.

Desormeaux is now represented by Brad Pegram.

* Espinoza will miss the final three days of the meet, beginning Sunday, after dropping the appeal of a suspension from earlier this season.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman