11/03/2004 12:00AM

Pleasantly Perfect retired

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Pleasantly Perfect wound up with more than $7.7 million in earnings.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Pleasantly Perfect, who conquered a heart virus as a young horse, then conquered the Breeders' Cup Classic and Dubai World Cup as an older horse, has been retired to stud, trainer Richard Mandella announced Tuesday.

The 6-year-old came out of his third-place finish Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Classic with an undetermined injury to his left hind ankle that would preclude him from running Nov. 28 in the $2 million Japan Cup Dirt. Instead, he will leave Santa Anita next week and settle in at Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky., where he will enter stud duty next spring with a fee of $40,000.

A son of Pleasant Colony purchased for $725,000 as a yearling by Gerald Ford, owner of Diamond A Farms, Pleasantly Perfect contracted a severe heart virus as a 2-year-old and was never close to running in the race for which he was aimed. He made his debut at age 3, more than one month after the 2001 Kentucky Derby. Ultimately, the wait was worth it.

was eased in his debut, came out of the race with a temperature, and was sidelined for another eight months. The slow developer finally won a maiden race in his fourth start as a 4-year-old, and became a stakes winner by the end of the year when he won the Grade 2 Goodwood. It was the first of six stakes victories for Pleasantly Perfect, who eventually sailed to the top echelon of racing by earning $7,789,880 - fourth on the all-time earnings list.

Overall, Pleasantly Perfect won 9 of 18 starts, including three Grade 1 races: the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, the 2004 Dubai World Cup, and the 2004 Pacific Classic at Del Mar. He ranks behind only Cigar, Skip Away, and Fantastic Light on the earnings list, and his BC Classic win remains the highlight of Mandella's 30-year training career - it was the fourth Breeders' Cup victory of the day for Mandella.

Standing outside the stall where Pleasantly Perfect was resting comfortably late Tuesday morning, Mandella talked about the retirement of his best horse.

"I'd say he was one of the really great ones, to have gone through the virus as a 2-year-old and end up as good as he was," Mandella said. "How great do you have to be to overcome that?"

Mandella was reluctant to compare Pleasantly Perfect with top handicap horses he trained such as Gentlemen, Siphon, and Soul of the Matter.

"It's unfair to compare, but there has never been one better than [Pleasantly Perfect]," he said. "Each year he'd get bigger and stronger. I'm just glad I got to have him."

Although the richest races won by Pleasantly Perfect were at 1 1/4 miles, he was faster than he was given credit for.

"People thought he wasn't quick and didn't have speed," Mandella said. "One of the things I did right was keep the speed out of him. It's not that he wasn't fast enough, he worked 57.80, and 34. I probably could have made him a miler."

The fast works to which Mandella referred took place last fall and preceded his second win in the Grade 2 Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita. A bullet five-furlong workout was his final drill before the BC Classic.

Pleasantly Perfect was a 14-1 longshot when he won that race in 2003, and in 2004 he reproduced his form. He won the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap by four lengths, and followed with a three-quarter-length win over Medaglia d'Oro in the Dubai World Cup. Pleasantly Perfect rebounded from a comeback loss in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar by winning the Pacific Classic three weeks later. By running third in the BC Classic on Saturday, his earnings for 2004 alone totaled more than $4.8 million.

Mandella speculates that Pleasantly Perfect was injured when he kicked the starting gate before the start of the Classic. He said a nuclear scan early this week "lit up his ankle at the bottom of his cannon bone," Mandella said. "He did something significant."

Ford retains a majority interest in Pleasantly Perfect, who was syndicated this fall. He likely would have retired after racing in Japan.

Said Mandella: "He was a helluva horse. . . . It's a pretty sad day to empty that stall."