09/02/2008 12:00AM

That's quite a dream, dog

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DEL MAR, Calif. - It is probably not a good idea to share a dream with strangers. But this one was different. And maybe, just maybe, I was not alone.

I dreamed that Curlin was a large, beautiful dog - a golden retriever, most likely, but with a finer profile to his snout and a burnished, coppery coat, like new pennies in spring rain. This gorgeous Curlin Dog was cavorting around the manicured grounds surrounding a vast warehouse owned by real-life Curlin owner Jess Jackson. The warehouse was stacked high with surfboards, skiffs and kayaks, and there were guests coming and going, grabbing boards from the racks, with Jackson playing the genial host and impressario. At one point, Curlin Dog jumped into a pond, to the delight of onlookers, and proceeded to hold his breath, floating just beneath the surface, his brown eyes wide open and sparkling. After a few dream minutes - who knows how long? - Curlin Dog poked his nose out of the water, took a breath, then submerged again. His audience oohed and aahed.

The dream occurred early Sunday morning, 12 hours or so after Curlin won a Woodward Stakes that was more dramatic than it had to be. Hand it to Curlin, though. He is merciful conqueror. He allowed the previously unheralded Past the Point to look good losing and retain his pride.

Curlin's people had fun trotting out the old Graveyard of Favorites line about heroes going down at Saratoga. If Curlin was ripe for such an unlikely upset, then good for him for getting the job done in the face of such staggering odds. Still, Silverbulletday won her Alabama by nine. Alydar and Discovery won their versions of the Whitney by 10 each, while Dr. Fager cruised by eight. It was Wajima by 10 in the Travers, and Arts and Letters by 10 in the Jim Dandy. Damascus won his Travers by 22.

As for the dream, it was clearly absurd. My apologies for even bringing it up. Freud wrote that "Dreams, then, are often most profound when they seem most crazy." But sometimes they are just plain crazy.

Bad news for Futurity rivals

The dreaming gets serious, and very real, at Del Mar on Wednesday when the meeting ends with the traditional Del Mar Futurity. The distance is seven furlongs and the purse is $250,000. Let the games begin.

For the first 10 years of its existence, the Del Mar Futurity was pretty much a backyard party. Your Host (1949) was the only winner of national note, and not simply because he was a colorful, crooked-necked character who went on to win the 1950 Santa Anita Derby. After shattering his leg and shoulder in the San Pasqual Handicap at a 4-year-old, he miraculously recovered and became a world-class stallion. His sons and daughters included Miss Todd, Windy Sands, Social Climber and - drum roll please - Kelso.

If there was a watershed Del Mar Futurity, it had to be the 1958 running. The winner, Tomy Lee, won the 1959 Kentucky Derby. The runner-up, Royal Orbit, took the 1959 Preakness. The third-place finisher, Bagdad, came within three-quarters of a length of winning the 1959 Belmont Stakes. So there.

The 11 lining up Wednesday afternoon are a workmanlike bunch just waiting for a leader to emerge. Midshipman displayed speed and class in winning his only race and may be the horse of the future, but both Kelly Leak and Coronet of a Baron proved they could handle themselves in the Best Pal Stakes, and there's nothing like bar fight to toughen the hide.

There have been any number of Thoroughbreds named for offbeat movie characters, including Fred C. Dobbs, Terry Malloy, Luca Brazzi and both Kaiser Soze and Keyser Soze. (I'm still waiting for colts named Sidney Falco and Lyle Gorch.) Kelly Leak is the latest.

Named for the chain-smoking, Harley-riding, class-ditching, bases-clearing ringer played by child star Jackie Earle Haley in "The Bad News Bears," Kelly Leak the colt might be taking the cinematic references a touch too seriously. He won the Best Pal by a nose, but not before a rowdy, weaving stretch run that resulted in his disqualification all the way down to fourth. The stewards also noted that Kelly Leak bothered some fans in the sixth row of the grandstand, but they couldn't do anything about that.

"He acts a little like Kelly Leak around the barn, too," said Mike Machowsky, who trains the young beast. "Always jumping and playing around.

"He's always acted very talented, though. He had a touch of a shin biting him out of his maiden race [at Hollywood Park in early June], which is why we stopped for awhile. I knew if I didn't put it behind him he'd be battling it all summer. It all kind of worked out . . . except for the disqualification."

Kelly Leak has one of those mixed message pedigrees. His sire, Runaway Groom, loved long strolls over hill and dale, while his maternal side is led by World Appeal, an ambitious main-track miler.

"We've got a lot of options with him," Machowsky said. "There's even a Breeders' Cup grass race we can look at for him. First things first, though. He's been in his tub even better than he was going into his last race, and he loves the track. We might as well use that to our advantage while we're here."