08/15/2004 11:00PM

Pleasantly Perfect tunes up

Pleasantly Perfect works Monday at Del Mar, his final tune-up for Sunday's $ 1 million Pacific Classic.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Choctaw Nation, Pleasantly Perfect, and During were the first three across the wire in the San Diego Handicap two weeks ago. They will meet again this Sunday, in the $1 million Pacific Classic, and on Monday, all three turned in their final drills for the biggest and richest race of the meet at Del Mar.

Del Mar's racing office made the unusual but thoughtful gesture of allowing only Pacific Classic horses on the track for the first 10 minutes after a mid-morning renovation break that ended at 8 a.m. Pleasantly Perfect, accompanied by stablemate Diamond Indy, was the first of the Pacific Classic horses to work.

Pleasantly Perfect and Diamond Indy broke off together just before reaching the six-furlong pole. They were together until the top of the stretch, when Pleasantly Perfect moved clear. The reins were shaken at him in the final furlong by exercise rider Paul Nillaung to facilitate a strong gallop out. He was timed in 1:11.60, the fastest time of 22 at the distance over the fast main track.

"The work went great," Richard Mandella, the trainer of Pleasantly Perfect, said later in the morning. "He went off, eased back, and then left him at the quarter pole. He looks as good as he could be."

Moments later, During also worked in company. With exercise Dana Barnes aboard, During and his Bob Baffert-trained stablemate, Question, broke off at the five-furlong pole, and continued on even terms to near the wire, where During was urged a bit to finish in front of Question. Baffert had Barnes give During a lengthy gallop-out of another three furlongs. Clockers credited During with a six-furlong time of 1:11.80.

"He's a lazy dude," Baffert said of the reason he had During gallop out so far. Baffert timed During galloping out a mile in 1:39. "He's going to need every bit of that work. A mile and a quarter, you just can't send them over there. A mile and a quarter is going to be stretching the rubber band. He'll take them as far as he can."

Choctaw Nation, who ran his record to a perfect 5 for 5 in the San Diego, worked alone and seemed well within himself while covering five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Jeff Mullins. Victor Espinoza, who regularly rides Choctaw Nation, was aboard for the work.

"Victor was real excited," Mullins said back at his barn. "That's all he needed. He just ran two weeks ago. He kind of does what he wants, anyway. It was nice having a quiet track after the break. If there are a lot of horses on the track and there's a horse in front of him, he gets aggressive. He was definitely more relaxed. He finished up strong and galloped out good."

In the days following the San Diego, it first appeared as if the Pacific Classic would have a small field. But with the likes of Colonial Colony and Perfect Drift scheduled to ship in for the race from Kentucky on Tuesday, and several locals willing to take a shot, the field now looks as though it will number eight.

Those expected to be entered on Wednesday night are Choctaw Nation (Espinoza the rider), Colonial Colony (Rafael Bejarano), During (Corey Nakatani), El Elogiado (Kent Desormeaux), Night Patrol (Tyler Baze), Perfect Drift (Pat Day), Pleasantly Perfect (Jerry Bailey), and Total Impact (Mike Smith).

Mandella said he would not enter Olmodavor, who comes off a second-place finish in the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park on July 31.

"He's looked too tired since the race in Chicago," Mandella said.

Mullins is considering entering the speedy Verkade, a recent acquisition from Calder who was second in a money allowance here on Aug. 5. "I don't know who's going to ride him, but it won't matter, because if he runs, he's going to be a rabbit," Mullins said.

El Elogiado is an import from Argentina who won his first three starts in that country, than was purchased by Sid and Jenny Craig. That is all he has had in common with last year's Pacific Classic winner, the brilliant Candy Ride. Since arriving in this country, El Elogiado has been beaten twice in second-level allowance races. He also worked Monday, covering six furlongs in 1:13 while being ridden aggressively.

"To me he's not a good work horse, unlike Candy Ride. You've got to make him do it," said Ron McAnally, who trains both El Elogiado and Candy Ride. "It was probably his best work, but it's going to be a very tough race. Last year, I had all the confidence in the world. This year, it's a different story."

At Churchill Downs on Monday, Colonial Colony worked five furlongs in 1:01.40.