07/22/2007 11:00PM

Spenditallbaby: Rag to riches


DEL MAR, Calif. - Trainer Barry Abrams has always prided himself on working with nervous horses and running horses back quickly. He may have his poster child in Spenditallbaby, who won the Fleet Treat Stakes on Sunday after acting up in the Del Mar paddock, and who will be wheeled back this Saturday in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Clemente Handicap.

Spenditallbaby, 3, races with earmuffs and came into the paddock Sunday with a cloth rag over her face that made her look like she was ready for Halloween. Abrams called the rag, which was cut into strips, a "pacifier" and said the idea behind it was to calm down Spenditallbaby and distract her from the commotion in the paddock.

"I got the idea at the car wash," Abrams said Monday morning. "I was stuck in my car going through the car wash and getting anxious, so I focused on the rag that was moving the soap around on the windshield. I focused on that, and it helped me relax. I thought maybe something like that would help her."

Instead of taking Spenditallbaby to the car wash, Abrams fashioned a smaller version of that wash rag. He schooled Spenditallbaby in the paddock for several days preceding the Fleet Treat. But on Sunday, she tried to rear up several times when jockey Joe Talamo got on her, and at one point tried to scramble away, with Abrams holding on so tightly to the reins that he tripped and fell.

To an outsider, it appeared Spenditallbaby was unable to see what was going on, but Abrams maintained the mistake he made was removing the rag too early in the paddock. He brought Spenditallbaby back to the paddock Monday afternoon for another schooling session.

All the hard work with Spenditallbaby has been worth it. She has won 4 times in 14 starts, has earned nearly $270,000 on the racetrack, and plenty more through the California-bred owners and breeders awards program. She is a daughter of Unusual Heat, who has been a cash machine for Abrams and his owner, Madeleine Auerbach.

"I don't own any part of this filly, but I've always got a rooting interest," Auerbach said.

Abrams said Spenditallbaby is his favorite horse.

"I bred her, raised her, and she's always been a nervous horse," he said. "We were going to sell her at Barretts last year, but she reared up, fell over, and split her head open. I've gotten really attached to her. I'm the only one who walks her in the morning."

Auerbach said that Spenditallbaby will peer out her stall in the morning, but as soon as she sees Abrams, "she starts screaming and yelling for him."

Despite her prerace antics, Spenditallbaby was fine on the racetrack during the post parade.

"You just have to keep her moving," Talamo said.

In the end Sunday, it all worked out.

Spot the Diplomat returns

Spot the Diplomat, who won a pair of stakes races here last summer, returns from a lengthy layoff in Wednesday's second race, an optional claimer with a purse of $72,000. He will face older horses for the first time.

Spot the Diplomat, 3, captured the Graduation and I'm Smokin stakes at age 2. He has not raced since finishing seventh of 10 as the favorite in the California Cup Juvenile on Oct. 28.

"We just gave him a break," said Carla Gaines, who trains Spot the Diplomat for John Harris's Harris Farms Inc. "He was at the Harris Ranch spa."

Said Harris, "We were thinking of running him in the Real Good Deal, but this race has about the same purse, and it's a smaller field."

Spot the Diplomat is the lone 3-year-old in the 6 1/2-furlong race. He was born the same month that Publication, one of his rivals, finished second in the San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita in March 2004.

More Happy impressive in debut

Trainer Bob Baffert, who has won 6 of the last 12 runnings of the Del Mar Debutante, may have another candidate for the $250,000, seven-furlong race on Sept. 3 with More Happy, a comfortable maiden race winner on Saturday.

More Happy won her career debut in Saturday's fourth race by a neck, holding off a stubborn challenge from Foxy Danseur. Ridden by David Flores, More Happy led by a half-length in the stretch and finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.70.

"He was trying to school her," Baffert said of Flores. "To win the first time out like that is pretty impressive. It was good to get that race out of the way."

More Happy, by Vindication, races for the partnership of Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds and John Sikura. She went through the ring in two major sales in the last year. At the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale, she was bought back for $725,000. At the Fasig-Tipton Florida February sale of 2-year-olds in training earlier this year, she was sold for $1omillion to Hill 'n' Dale Bloodstock.

Baffert said Sunday he was unsure whether More Happy would return in the $150,000 Sorrento Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 8 or wait for the Debutante.

Sun Boat, Awesome Gem target Pacific

Sun Boat and Awesome Gem, the first two finishers of the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap on Saturday, are bound for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, where they will face defending champion Lava Man at level weights of 124 pounds.

In the San Diego, Sun Boat (114 pounds) rallied from last of nine to finish a length in front of Awesome Gem (117). The victory was the first stakes win for Sun Boat, who was claimed for $50,000 in April by a partnership and trainer Mike Mitchell.

"I really thought he ran big," Mitchell said.

Mitchell praised the ride of jockey Michael Baze, who found a path between horses in the stretch, saving valuable ground.

"He had a lot of horse and he didn't have to go around everybody," Mitchell said.

Awesome Gem ran his best race since winning the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita in January.

"That should set up the Gemster" for the Pacific Classic, trainer Craig Dollase said.

Asked if he was concerned with the way that Sun Boat ran past Awesome Gem in the stretch, Dollase said, "I'm not sure he saw that horse."

The disappointment in the field was Buzzards Bay, the 3-2 favorite. He led to the final turn and faded to finish eighth. Trainer Ron Ellis said Buzzards Bay did not bleed from the lungs, but would undergo a routine blood test this week.

Ellis said Buzzards Bay appeared unable to handle Del Mar's Polytrack synthetic track and is not expected to start in the Pacific Classic.

"If he doesn't handle the track, I don't think we'll consider that," he said.

The horses that do show up for the Pacific Classic will have a formidable favorite to beat in Lava Man, who has won the Santa Anita Handicap and Hollywood Gold Cup this year. Trainer Doug O'Neill said Lava Man is "getting over the track very well" at Del Mar.

"It can be tiring, so we're making sure he's getting a lot of miles on it," he said.

Lava Man's daily routine in the last several days has been to jog two miles and then gallop 1 1/2 miles, O'Neill said.

* E Z Warrior, preparing for the Grade 1, $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap for sprinters this Sunday, worked five furlongs from the gate Sunday in 59.40 seconds, the best time of 89 at the distance.

* The Tin Man, who is scheduled to defend his title in next month's Arlington Million, worked seven furlongs on Polytrack in 1:27 on Monday morning.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen