03/05/2004 1:00AM

Pleasantly Perfect unlikely for Big Cap


ARCADIA, Calif. - Pleasantly Perfect, the winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic, was expected to be scratched from Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap after he developed a temperature Friday, trainer Richard Mandella said.

The setback also threatens Pleasantly Perfect's participation in the $6 million Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba in the Middle East on March 27.

Pleasantly Perfect was the 6-5 morning line favorite and 123-pound topweight for the Big Cap. Mandella said Pleasantly Perfect had a temperature of 102 early Friday. The temperature later receded to 100.3, but rose to 101 by 10:30 a.m., he said.

Mandella said the temperature check was part of a routine procedure conducted daily by stable staff.

Mandella said it was "90-10" that Pleasantly Perfect would be withdrawn from the Big Cap, but he will wait until early Saturday to make a final decision. The only chance for Pleasantly Perfect to run "is if I see a good reason he had a temperature," he said.

"If he's a little bit sick, he'll have pneumonia if I run," he said.

A late-morning blood test revealed no illness, Mandella said.

"The blood is almost normal," Mandella said. "He could have had a high white count that could have showed infections."

Pleasantly Perfect has won three straight major stakes. A winner of 7 of 14 starts and $3,099,880 for Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing, Pleasantly Perfect won the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap last October and the San Antonio Handicap on Jan. 31, his 2004 debut. The Breeders' Cup Classic was his final start of 2003.

Mandella had the Big Cap and the Dubai World Cup as March goals for Pleasantly Perfect. On Friday, Mandella said Pleasantly Perfect must recover quickly to retain any chance of a trip to the Middle East. He said if Pleasantly Perfect is not back to the track by Monday or Tuesday the Dubai trip is in jeopardy.

"I've got to get something decent in him," Mandella said, referring to a workout. "It's a delicate situation, but I won't give it up until I have to."

The expected scratch of Pleasantly Perfect left leading rider Alex Solis without a mount in the Big Cap. Mandella also entered Olmodavor, the winner of the Whirlaway Handicap at Fair Grounds last month. Mike Smith is booked to ride Olmodavor.

Mandella waited until mid-week to choose Smith for Olmodavor, leaving the possibility that Solis could ride Olmodavor if Pleasantly Perfect did not start. Smith was named when entries were taken Wednesday.

When news of Pleasantly Perfect's illness spread Friday morning, speculation arose that Mandella never intended to run Pleasantly Perfect in both the Big Cap and Dubai World Cup. Mandella quickly disputed that theory.

"I wish I was that smart," Mandella said. "I hope he does well enough that I can go to Dubai and they can accuse me of that. But I wouldn't do that to punish Alex Solis."

Mandella gets his champs ready

Mandella trains the two juvenile champions of 2003 - the filly Halfbridled and the male Action This Day - and both are scheduled to start in major stakes next weekend.

Halfbridled will make her 2004 debut in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks, a Grade 1 for 3-year-old fillies over 1 1/16 miles. She is expected to be ridden by Gary Stevens. Julie Krone, who was aboard for all four of Halfbridled's wins in 2003, is out with the lingering effects of two fractured ribs she suffered in a spill at Hollywood Park on Dec. 12.

Mandella wanted to use Solis, but Solis is booked on A.P. Adventure, the winner of the Santa Ysabel and Las Virgenes Stakes.

Halfbridled was scheduled to make her 2004 debut in the Las Virgenes Stakes on Feb. 15, but Mandella canceled that start, saying Halfbridled was behind schedule. Halfbridled coughed for a few days in late January.

The Santa Anita Oaks is expected to include Hollywood Story, Salty Romance, Silent Sighs, and Stellar Jayne.

Action This Day, the winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was fourth in his 2004 debut in the Sham Stakes on Feb. 8.

In Sunday's $250,000 San Felipe over 1 1/16 miles, he is expected to face Don'tsellmeshort, Harvard Avenue, Odds On, Preachinatthebar, Rush Into Heaven, St Averil, and Toasted. Toasted, who was stakes-placed in France last year, and who was scratched from Saturday's $200,000 San Rafael Stakes.

Sunday's program also features the $300,000 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on dirt, the championship race of the meeting for older fillies and mares.

Star Parade and Bare Necessities, who finished first and second in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap on Feb. 16, lead the field. Adoration, the upset winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Distaff, is also probable, along with Fencelineneigbor, La Tour and Mer de Corail.

Unfurl the Flag on target for next

Unfurl the Flag, who equaled Spectacular Bid's 24-year-old track record for seven furlongs in an optional claimer Feb. 21, passed Sunday's San Carlos Handicap in favor of the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap on March 28, trainer David Bernstein said.

Unfurl the Flag ran seven furlongs in 1:20.11 on a track that was listed as fast and played very quick because of rain. Spectacular Bid finished seven furlongs in 1:20 when he won the 1980 Malibu Stakes.

Bernstein said the San Carlos was too close to the allowance race.

"He was blowing on his feet the next day. They were a little warm," Bernstein said. "But that's to be expected."

Cee Mister B rallies past He's the Rage

Cee Mister B moved closer to a start in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park next month with a three-quarter length win over He's the Rage in a $52,000 allowance race for California-breds on Friday.

Ridden by Kent Desormeaux, Cee Mister B ($3.40) finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.13. He stalked pacesetter He's the Rage and Dancin Candy to the final turn and rallied three wide to reach contention. He's the Rage led at the eighth pole, but could not hold off Cee Mister B.

Cee Mister B races for Irvlu Stable and trainer David Bernstein. The colt has won 2 of 3 starts, racing only against California-breds.