08/23/2001 11:00PM

Pompeii says good-bye to Kimmel in style


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - When Pompeii scored a 1 1/4-length win over Beautiful Pleasure in Friday's $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga, it was a bittersweet moment for trainer John Kimmel.

Pompeii became a Grade 1 winner in the Personal Ensign, but on Saturday morning she was scheduled to move over to trainer Elliott Walden's barn after have been sold earlier this week by Robert Clay to WinStar Farm. In the Personal Ensign, Pompeii ran for both WinStar Farm and Robert Clay.

Beautiful Pleasure, a two-time winner of the Personal Ensign, had lost her two starts this year, but she was made the 2-1 favorite in a field of seven fillies and mares.

As expected, Beautiful Pleasure set the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Personal Ensign. But unlike in her previous starts, the Hempstead and Go for Wand, in which Beautiful Pleasure set quick fractions, she set a modest pace on Friday. After fractions of 24.88 seconds, 49.09, 1:13.41, and 1:38.49, the old Beautiful Pleasure would have been home free.

Not this time.

As usual, Beautiful Pleasure ran wide coming into the stretch, enabling Pompeii and jockey Richard Migliore to slip by on the rail. Pompeii had a length lead with a furlong remaining and was able to keep Beautiful Pleasure at bay.

"It was a sweet trip," said Migliore, who kept Pompeii within striking distance of Beautiful Pleasure's pedestrian pace. "I had a lot of horse the whole way."

Irving's Baby finished third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Beautiful Pleasure. Serra Lake, Catch the Ring, Under the Rug, and Critical Eye completed the order of finish.

Pompeii ($9.50) covered the distance in a slow 2:04.60 over a fast track.

Pompeii's win in the Personal Ensign took the sting out of a tough meet for Kimmel, who usually fires big at Saratoga. This was Kimmel's first stakes win at the meet and his fourth win overall.

"There's a lot of emotion involved with the time and effort you put into horses," said Kimmel, reflecting on the sale of Pompeii. "She was life and death as a 3-year-old to win a maiden race, and a year and a half later she's winning a Grade 1."