08/12/2007 11:00PM

Tiago's Pacific status remains undecided


DEL MAR, Calif. - A large field, headed by defending race winner Lava Man, is expected to be entered Wednesday night in Sunday's Gradeo1, $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, but the final field will be in flux right up to entry time, because trainer John Shirreffs said he will wait as long as possible to decide whether to run Tiago and/or A.P. Xcellent.

Both Tiago, the winner of the Santa Anita Derby and Swaps Stakes, and A.P. Xcellent, who was second to Lava Man in the Hollywood Gold Cup, worked six furlongs Sunday at Del Mar. Tiago was timed in 1:13.60, A.P. Xcellent in 1:15.40. But as to whether they would run, Shirreffs said Monday, "I don't know yet. I'm going to wait until Wednesday."

Tiago, 3, would get a seven-pound weight break (124-117) from older rivals under the weight-for-age conditions of the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic. He also would be one of the top choices in the wagering, perhaps the second choice to Lava Man. But Shirreffs has not done cartwheels over California's switch to synthetic surfaces, and while he has not been as vocal about it as, say, Bob Baffert, it has added another factor to be considered by the quietly contemplative trainer.

On Sunday morning, Shirreffs expressed concern about whether Tiago and A.P. Xcellent could be effective without having raced over the surface.

"It's difficult to predict," he said. "It's hard to compare how they train in the morning with how they race in the afternoon."

Regardless, there is no shortage of challengers expected to face Lava Man, who will be ridden by Corey Nakatani. Those considered definite for the Pacific Classic are Albertus Maximus (Joe Talamo the rider), Arson Squad (Alex Solis), Awesome Gem (David Flores), Big Booster (Garrett Gomez), Hello Sunday (Brice Blanc), Molengao (Victor Espinoza), Porfido (Joel Rosario), Salty Humor (Jon Court), Student Council (Richard Migliore), Sun Boat (Michael Baze), and Time Squared (Julien Leparoux). Mike Smith will ride Tiago if he runs, and will be on A.P. Xcellent if Tiago does not run.

Big Booster (six furlongs, 1:14.20) and Sun Boat (five furlongs, 1:02.20) both worked Monday morning at Del Mar for trainer Mike Mitchell. Sun Boat is coming off a win in the San Diego Handicap here on July 21.

Awesome Gem, runner-up in the San Diego, worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 on Sunday. His trainer, Craig Dollase, said the workout was important to give Awesome Gem the benefit of several works on Polytrack in addition to the recent start.

"It looks like he got something out of it," Dollase said.

Albertus Maximus, second to Tiago in the Swaps, worked seven furlongs in 1:25.80 on Sunday. The Pacific Classic will be his first start against older horses. Like Tiago, he gets a seven-pound weight break.

"I think the distance is good for him," trainer Gary Mandella said. "I'm not in love with racing against older horses, but it looks like a good shot to take."

Also working five furlongs on Sunday were Hello Sunday (1:00.20) and Porfido (1:01.60), both trained by Bobby Frankel.

Lava Man, who will be the favorite, was fitted with glue-on shoes late Saturday afternoon, several hours after working six furlongs in 1:14.95 before Saturday's first race.

Lava Man was found to have an abscess in his left front foot after his win in the Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30, but trainer Doug O'Neill said there has been no lingering effects of the injury.

The abscess was discovered when farrier Jim Jimenez removed Lava Man's front shoes in the days after the Gold Cup.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen