10/03/2003 11:00PM

Pleasantly Perfect wins comeback

Pleasantly Perfect wins his second straight Grade 2 Goodwood Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - It took a year for Pleasantly Perfect to get back to the winner's circle. Now, he has a chance to pick up right where he left off last year and go into the Breeders' Cup Classic with a chance to win this country's richest race.

Pleasantly Perfect returned from a seven-month absence Saturday and won the Grade 2, $482,000 for the second straight year at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. The performance was rather workmanlike, but a surprisingly slow early pace prevented Pleasantly Perfect from getting an ideal setup. Considering the fractions and the layoff, Pleasantly Perfect, a long-striding son of Pleasant Colony, ran about as well as could be expected.

Pleasantly Perfect ($4.80) held off Fleetstreet Dancer to win the Goodwood by a half-length, with Star Cross, the longest shot in the field, finishing third. Joey Franco, the second choice in the race, was fourth, and Toccet, the third choice, finished last in the field of eight after pressing the early pace.

Taste of Paradise led through soft fractions of 24.25 seconds, 48.53, and 1:11.83 for the first six furlongs. Pleasantly Perfect, sixth early under Alex Solis, advanced to fourth while wide as the field went around the far turn.

"At the half-mile pole, I had to help myself," Solis said.

Pleasantly Perfect surged to the lead just inside the furlong pole and completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:48.37.

"I've got to give credit to Alex," said Richard Mandella, who trains Pleasantly Perfect for Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing Corp. "Not in a million years did I think they'd walk that slow early."

Pleasantly Perfect's victory in last year's Goodwood made him one of the leading contenders for the 2002 Classic, which was held at Arlington Park. Pleasantly Perfect bled in the postrace test barn, however, and had to be placed on the veterinarian's list. Under the Illinois rules of racing, horses placed on the vet's list because of bleeding cannot compete for 30 days. The Breeders' Cup was only 21 days away, so Pleasantly Perfect was not allowed to run. Had last year's Breeders' Cup been held instead at Santa Anita, he would have raced, because California's rule requires only a 14-day absence from racing.