03/22/2004 12:00AM

Pleasantly Perfect leads U.S. quartet

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Anxious moments have become commonplace with Pleasantly Perfect this month.

Three weeks ago, Pleasantly Perfect was scratched from the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap after developing a temperature a day before the race. He would have been heavily favored.

Monday, during a gallop at Nad Al Sheba racecourse in preparation for Saturday's $6 million Dubai World Cup, Pleasantly Perfect threw a shoe during a gallop. Fortunately for owner Gerald Ford and trainer Richard Mandella, Pleasantly Perfect suffered no damage to his right front foot.

"He was all right with it," Mandella said. "It was clean."

The winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, Pleasantly Perfect is one of four American invaders attempting to win the World Cup, the world's richest race.

The traveling team also includes Medaglia d'Oro, an impressive winner of the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 7; Domestic Dispute, the winner of the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7; and Fleetstreet Dancer, who was third behind Pleasantly Perfect in the San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 31.

Run over 1 1/4 miles, the Dubai World Cup is one of seven stakes worth a total of $15.25 million on Saturday's card. Post time for the World Cup is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.

William Hill, the English bookmaking company, lists Medaglia d'Oro and Pleasantly Perfect as co-favorites at 9-4.

Pleasantly Perfect is seeking his fourth consecutive stakes win, a streak that includes the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap last fall at Santa Anita.

Monday, Pleasantly Perfect galloped and clearly wanted to do more than asked. "He wants to go around again," Mandella said as he watched Pleasantly Perfect being pulled up. "He's feeling good, isn't he? He gets over the ground."

Mandella says Pleasantly Perfect has shown no signs of illness since early March.

"He hasn't missed a beat. There have been no signs of a temperature," Mandella said. "I was apprehensive, but he looks great."

The American quartet will have eight opponents, some of whom have raced in the United States.

The local team includes Victory Moon and State Shinto, who between them have won the three local preps run at Nad Al Sheba. State Shinto was fourth behind Mineshaft in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park last October.

The Maktoum family, the ruling family of Dubai who developed the Dubai World Cup program in the mid-1990's, will start Grand Hombre, the winner of the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park last September. Grande Hombre has not started since finishing second to Excessivepleasure in the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park last October. That race was Grand Hombre's only loss in five starts.

The other probables are outsiders, including Admire Don, Regent Bluff, and Silent Deal, all from Japan; Dinyeper, a multiple stakes winner in Turkey who is winless in two starts at Nad Al Sheba in recent months; and King's Boy, a shipper from Saudi Arabia.

The American horses worked over the weekend. Saturday, Pleasantly Perfect went six furlongs, with Mandella timing the last half-mile in 47.80 seconds.

Fleetstreet Dancer worked 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) in 1:14.79. Trained by Doug O'Neill, he is owned by Ty and Lee Leatherman of California.

On Sunday, Medaglia d'Oro worked about six furlongs in 1:14.76, going the first five furlongs in company with During, a candidate for the $1 million Godolphin Mile who is trained by Bob Baffert.

Medaglia d'Oro is trained by Bobby Frankel, who did not make the trip, sending assistant Ruben Loza. Owner Edmund Gann of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is expected later in the week.

Domestic Dispute, who races for Californians David Bienstock and Chuck Winner, worked about six furlongs on turf in 1:17.90. The change in surface is a tactic that trainer Paddy Gallagher has used in the past for workouts.

"Paddy wanted to change [Domestic Dispute's] mind a little bit," said Mick Brennan, Gallagher's assistant. "He's really taken to the place. He's really settled in."

The American quartet represents the largest U.S. involvement in the race since five American-based horses started in 2000. The best American finish that year was a second by Behrens behind Godolphin runner Dubai Millennium.