Updated on 09/15/2011 1:46PM

Performing Magic beatable fave

Michael J. Marten/HORSEPHOTOS
Performing Magic returns from a ten month layoff.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Horseplayers are invited to wager against the best horse in the feature race on Thursday at Del Mar.

Performing Magic, winner of the Illinois Derby, Remington Park Derby, and Derby Trial at Churchill Downs in 2000, returns from a 10-month layoff in a six-furlong classified allowance. His intentions? Said trainer John Shirreffs: "This is a prep race, I don't know how well he'll sprint."

Performing Magic raced seven times at seven tracks last year, winning three graded stakes and earning the bulk of his $689,183 career bankroll. By the time he finished second in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park on Oct. 7, he was ready for a break.

"He was a little tired, a little knocked out from running everywhere," Shirreffs said. "He'd had a long campaign, so we gave him a break." It lasted 10 months. Shirreffs said Performing Magic, owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., will stretch to two turns for his next start.

Handicappers willing to discount Performing Magic's chances will find no obvious alternatives in the $65,000 allowance. In fact, questions also surround the other five. Capo Di Capo has been gelded since his last start in April; Elegant Fellow and Beaumes de Venise have not raced in more than year; Martel's last seven starts were on turf; and Tavasco has been off since March.

Based on their recent works and established sprint ability, Elegant Fellow and Capo Di Capo are the ones to beat. Elegant Fellow has won four of nine for trainer Warren Stute, and has been training like he is ready to fire in his first start since last July. It wouldn't be the first time he ran well fresh; Elegant Fellow earned the second-best figure of his career in his 1999 debut.

Capo Di Capo has threatened to become an important horse for Richard Mandella, but three tries in graded stakes produced disappointing efforts. His most recent was a last-place finish in the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeder's Cup, after which he was gelded.

Capo Di Capo's best figure - a 103 Beyer - would be good enough to win Thursday. Whether he can do it from the rail is the issue. In six-furlong races this meet, the inside post was 1 for 39 (through Monday).

Tavasco won his debut two years ago Del Mar, but subsequent wins have been confined to Turf Paradise and Remington Park. Turf specialist Martel is racing in top form, and he has won on dirt. Beaumes de Venise, according to trainer Craig Dollase "might need one."

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