08/22/2002 12:00AM

Record field of 14 in Pacific Classic


DEL MAR, Calif. - War Emblem may be the leader of the 3-year-old division, but his first foray into the older horse division in Sunday's $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar has not scared away the challengers.

A record field of 14 was entered on Thursday for the richest race of this meeting, run over 1 1/4 miles. The other 13 will all be chasing War Emblem, who is expected to be a pace factor from the start as he was earlier this year when he won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Haskell Invitational.

The previous record for field size was nine in 1994 and 1998.

War Emblem drew post 6 and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza. The 14-horse field includes eight other stakes winners this year, ranging from top contenders Came Home (the winner of the Santa Anita Derby), Milwaukee Brew (Santa Anita Handicap) and Sky Jack (Hollywood Gold Cup) to the longshot Nates Colony (Downs at Albuquerque Handicap).

Came Home and War Emblem are the only 3-year-olds in the field, and will carry 117 pounds. The older horses will carry 124 pounds.

There are 12 betting interests. Nates Colony, fourth in the San Diego Handicap in his last start, and Speedy Pick, who was stakes-placed earlier this year, are coupled in a mutuel field.

Came Home and Bosque Redondo will be coupled as entry, since John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery own Bosque Redondo and share ownership in Came Home with Bill Farish and John Goodman.

War Emblem is the focus of the race. Not only will he be favored, but he is expected to contribute to a hot pace along with the confirmed front-runner Bosque Redondo and Sky Jack. War Emblem is attempting to become the third 3-year-old to win the Pacific Classic, joining Best Pal (1991) and General Challenge (1998).

"Right now, we're just enjoying him," trainer Bob Baffert said. "People want to see him run. He's the marquee horse."

At least one trainer was not thrilled to hear that the field size will be a record.

"I think that's too many horses on that racetrack," said trainer Bobby Frankel.

Frankel has won six of the 11 runnings of the Pacific Classic, including the last two with Skimming. This year, Frankel starts Milwaukee Brew, who won the Santa Anita Handicap and Californian Stakes in the spring before finishing third to Sky Jack and Momentum in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 14.

Sky Jack led throughout the Hollywood Gold Cup for his first Grade 1 victory. Trainer Doug O'Neill said Sky Jack does not need the lead, which will give jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr., options as the race unfolds.

"With the field being so large, the idea is to break and go and see what happens," O'Neill said. "If they're flying, we can sit off of them."

If the pace is too hot, there will be plenty of closers, including Grey Memo, the upset winner of the San Diego Handicap on Aug. 4 under Eddie Delahoussaye.

"We're kind of experimenting, but Eddie said he'd like to ride him a mile and a quarter," trainer Warren Stute said. "I'm kind of putting the pressure on Eddie."

Injury keeps Arbiter out

The Pacific Classic lost one expected starter on Thursday morning when trainer Craig Lewis did not enter Arbiter, who the trainer said had suffered a minor injury to his right front leg.

"He's got some inflammation," Lewis said. "It doesn't appear to be anything major, but he's too good a horse to take a chance with."

Arbiter has won three of his last four starts, and five of his last seven, including an optional claiming race on the turf here July 25. He had come back to work sharply, giving Lewis confidence Arbiter could handle the jump in class.

"I really thought he had a legitimate chance," Lewis said.

Arbiter, a 5-year-old gelding by A.P. Indy, owns three victories at 1 1/4 miles - the Pacific Classic distance - or longer.

"He's a true mile-and-a-quarter horse," Lewis said. "He's sharp. He was just getting good at the right time."

Juveniles stricken at Godolphin barn

Godolphin Racing may not have any more starters at the current Del Mar meeting because a sickness has sidelined a majority of the stable's of 2-year-olds.

Trainer Eoin Harty has not had a starter since Aug. 4 and fears that many of the sick horses will not be ready before the end of the meeting on Sept. 11.

"Some are still coughing, but their temperatures are good and their blood is good," he said.

The recent setback jeopardizes the chances that some Godolphin 2-year-olds will have of starting in California before the stable returns to Dubai in the late fall.

Last year, Tempera won the Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar for Godolphin before pulling off an upset in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park. She was later named champion 2-year-old filly. Harty said that 10 2-year-olds that had missed 10 days to two weeks of training went back to the track on Thursday. "They have had no training and no workouts," Harty said. "It's just a disastrous year."

Thoroughbred Corp. to thin stock

The Thoroughbred Corporation, the stable owned by the late Prince Ahmed bin Salman, will reduce its number of horses through the sale of yearlings and other bloodstock through the end of the year, according to Richard Mulhall, the president of The Thoroughbred Corporation.

Mulhall said he recently met in London with, among others, Salman's brother, Prince Faisal bin Salman, whom the prince's family has appointed at this time as the executor of Prince Ahmed's estate.

Mulhall said that it is expected Prince Faisal will be officially named his brother's executor through the Saudi Arabian courts, and that that process needs to happen before horses can be sold.

"It's time-sensitive, because we want to sell some yearlings at Keeneland next month," Mulhall said. "We've sold some yearlings every year. This was a plan even before the prince died. We just have too many horses. We're up around the high 300's. We need to sell 100 by the end of the year."

The Thoroughbred Corporation previously announced it would sell some breeding stock this November at Keeneland.

'Buffy' back to track after illness

Buffythecenterfold, the top 2-year-old filly in California, returned to the racetrack on Thursday for the first time since she won the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 10.

Trainer Mel Stute said Buffythecenterfold has been plagued by a runny nose and coughing since the Sorrento Stakes and coughed several times after jogging on Thursday. He remains guarded that she can be ready for the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 31, the championship race for 2-year-old fillies at this meeting.

"It's not good," Stute said. "I need to make sure her temperature doesn't shoot up."

Stute said that if Buffythecenterfold does not start in the Del Mar Debutante that she would be considered for the $400,000 Walmac International Alcibiades Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland on Oct. 4.