08/27/2007 11:00PM

Run Precious Kitten? Or Price Tag?


DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer Bobby Frankel is clear across the country in Saratoga, but with an able assistant like Humberto Ascanio overseeing things at Del Mar, it's almost like he's here. Ascanio has worked with Frankel for more than 30 years, and there is total trust between the two men, so much so that Frankel will lean on Ascanio for a final decision as to whether to run the top-class fillies Precious Kitten or Price Tag on Saturday at Del Mar in the Grade 2, $250,000 Palomar Handicap.

"It's going to be whichever is doing better," Frankel said Tuesday from Saratoga. "I won't run both."

Either is capable of winning the Palomar, at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Precious Kitten captured the John Mabee earlier this meet, a race from which Price Tag was scratched. Price Tag, last year's winner of the Matriarch Stakes, has not raced since finishing third in the CashCall Mile nearly two months ago at Hollywood Park.

Julien Leparoux will be in to ride Precious Kitten or Price Tag, Frankel said.

Price Tag was assigned top weight of 123 pounds for the Palomar, with Precious Kitten at 122. Precious Kitten worked a half-mile in 49.80 seconds on Monday. Ascanio said Price Tag was scheduled to work on Wednesday.

Others expected for the Palomar are Black Mamba, Branca Como Neve, Clinet, Dreams, I Can See, Kris's Sis, and Shermeen. Kris's Sis worked a half-mile in 49.80 seconds on Tuesday morning for trainer Julio Canani, and Clinet worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 for trainer Paddy Gallagher.

Full gate for Del Mar Derby

Del Mar closes next Wednesday with the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, and 2-year-old fillies will be the focus of Monday's Labor Day card in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, but the first part of Labor Day weekend, turf runners are in the spotlight with the Palomar and then the Grade 2, $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sunday.

The Del Mar Derby, at 1 1/8 miles on turf, is expected to have a full field of 10, including Medici Code, the winner of the La Jolla Handicap. Others pointing for the Del Mar Derby are Augment, Bleu Intense, Souvenir Slew, Stoneside, Ten a Penny, Unusual Suspect, Vauquelin, Warning Zone, and Worldly.

Augment worked five furlongs in 1:00 on Tuesday for Gallagher.

Bleu Intense is a newcomer from France who is heading to Frankel's barn. Ascanio said the colt was scheduled to arrive Thursday night from Europe.

Also on Sunday is the $125,000 Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on Polytrack. Mostbeautifulstorm, Romance Is Diane, Seaside Affair, Silver Swallow, Swiss Current, and Swiss Diva are among those expected to run.

Oldtimer look-alikes

Hemet Thought and Mysterious Cat are two of the most popular senior citizens on the backstretch, and they have eerily identical records. They each have made 48 starts. They each have won nine times. And despite being age 9, they each have been claimed three times during this calendar year.

They meet on Thursday, in a claiming race in which Hemet Thought can be taken for $10,000, Mysterious Cat for $9,000. It is only the second time they have faced one another this year. Hemet Thought was first, and Mysterious Cat fourth, in a $10,000 claimer at Hollywood Park on May 11.

Hemet Thought won a $10,000 claimer at Del Mar on Aug. 4, and trainer Art Sherman is bringing him right back at that level on Thursday.

"He's like a pet around the barn, a real sweetheart." Sherman said. "He's just a cool horse. We wanted a little cheapie to run, and I love horses who like to win races. He's a classy horse."

Nutzapper is out, Guts is in

The name Nutzapper is no more. According to Barry Abrams, the trainer and co-owner of the 2-year-old, The Jockey Club - which originally approved the name - had second thoughts last week and forced Abrams to change the name the day Nutzapper made his debut at Del Mar.

Abrams said he had to sign a document saying he would change the name as a condition of letting Nutzapper run last Wednesday. He finished second.

The gelding's name has now been changed to Guts, in honor of a top Standardbred that Abrams trained.

Impressive filly debuts

The trainers of Czechers and P.S.U. Grad, who ran one-two in a highly rated race for 2-year-old maiden fillies on Sunday, have high hopes for them. Mark Glatt, the trainer of Czechers, said he would like to stretch her out around two turns next time.

"I think she'll run long," Glatt said. "You have to relax to do that. One thing I liked about her race is that she let David Flores do what he wanted. Even though she had breezed well, she was more professional than I expected.

"She's very mature for a 2-year-old. She's got a lot of natural speed. She's got a long stride on her. As long as we can keep her relaxed, she should go on and do some nice things."

Glatt said he would look for a race at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting, which begins Sept. 26, but did not want to head straight into the Gradeo1 Oak Leaf Stakes on Sept. 29.

P.S.U. Grad, who rallied strongly following a poor start, will come back in the Barretts Debutante on Sept. 15 at Fairplex, trainer Craig Dollase said.

"She missed the break, which I think cost us," Dollase said. "Other than winning, I was happy with the result. She had to stand in the gate so long she broke flat-footed. She'll go to the Barretts race, then hopefully bigger and better things after that."

Change in plans for Buzzards Bay

Time is running out for Buzzards Bay to regain his form before the $5omillion Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.

The winner of the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park in June for owner Gary Broad, Buzzards Bay was eighth in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap in his Polytrack debut here on July 21.

Trainer Ron Ellis said after the race that Buzzards Bay would not start again at Del Mar this year, but has changed his mind and pointed the 5-year-old horse to Monday's $85,000 Windy Sands Handicap at a mile.

"Where else am I going to run?" Ellis said, rhetorically.

Ellis intends to use the Windy Sands as a prep to the $500,000 Goodwood Stakes at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting on Sept. 29.

After the San Diego, Ellis said that Buzzards Bay should have had a workout over the Polytrack to acclimate to the surface.

On Tuesday, Ellis worked Buzzards Bay six furlongs in 1:13.60 over the Polytrack for the Windy Sands.

Ellis has two other stakes runners for the final week of the meeting.

On Friday, Latin Rhythms will start in the $125,000 El Cajon Stakes at a mile. Latin Rhythms finished third in the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap on turf on Aug. 11, but Ellis thinks the colt will be better on Polytrack.

"He appears to like to stay on his left lead," Ellis said. "If horses are not going to change lead, he's better on the [main track]. I thought he ran well in his stakes debut in the La Jolla."

Declan's Moon, the champion 2-year-old male of 2004, will start in the restricted $85,000 Pirate's Bounty Handicap at six furlongs on Sept.o5. Declan's Moon finished sixth in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap here on July 29.

* Entering the final week of the meet, Michael Baze has a commanding lead in the jockey standings with 44 wins, 14 more than Joe Talamo in second place. Doug O'Neill has the lead among trainers with 21 wins, six more than Jeff Mullins.

* Jockey Clinton Potts celebrated his 36th birthday Monday by winning the day's first race with Ooh Yeah.

– additional reportingby Steve Andersen