08/30/2007 11:00PM

Two worth getting to know

Email

DEL MAR, Calif. - Familiarity, at least in Thoroughbred racing, tends to breed winners instead of contempt, which is why the chances of Worldly and Izarra in Del Mar's major holiday weekend features are better than average, despite deep and competitive fields.

Fourteen 2-year-old fillies entered the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Monday's Labor Day program. What this will look like coming out of the long seven-furlong chute can only be subject to speculation, since there has not been a Debutante field that large since 1968, and videotape was not a widespread technology.

Ron McAnally waited until 1975 to win his first Debutante, with Queen to Be for Max Gluck, then did it again in 1995 with Call Now, for Vern Winchell. McAnally will attempt to win his third version of the race with Izarra, a daughter of Distorted Humor, who won her only start on July 29 in a six-furlong maiden score over Del Mar's Polytrack.

McAnally could have described Izarra inside and out before she ever set foot in his barn. He trained both her dam, Arlucea, and her granddam, Bayakoa, for breeder Janis Whitham, and certain physical and mental traits have persisted through the generations.

It's okay if Arlucea is not a familiar name. The daughter of Broad Brush won only a single race in a brief career before heading to the breeding shed. Bayakoa's record, however, is required reading. The buck-toothed speed freak was one of the greatest mares ever produced in Argentina. She was harnessed long enough in the U.S. by McAnally, assistant Eduardo Inda, and jockey Laffit Pincay to win Eclipse Awards in both 1989 and 1990. Despite the best efforts of some very good females, Bayakoa remains the only back-to-back winner of the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Bayakoa had modest success as a broodmare. Her first foal, Trinity Place, produced Del Mar Oaks winner Affluent. Bayakoa's final foal was Arlucea, and all of them had an edge.

"Kind of flighty," said Janis Whitham from her farm near the western Kansas town of Leoti. "But runners, although the family hasn't been quite as successful as we hoped."

Students of the breed will be forgiven a double-take at the sight of Izarra's female lineage, which reads: Izarra, Arlucea, Bayakoa, Arlucea, Izarra. Whitham resurrected the names of Bayakoa's dam and granddam for the more recent members of the family, and it was no surprise when she heard this latest Izarra was keeping the flame alive. At least at first.

After showing plenty of promise, Izarra was entered and then scratched from a race at Hollywood Park when she threw a fit one morning at the gate. When she made it to the races at Del Mar, she shied from the rider as he approached in the walking ring, then went out and won by nearly four.

"I thought she might come unglued after that first race," McAnally said of Izarra. "But she took it like an old pro, and she does anything you ask without a fuss. We saddled her in the paddock this morning and put the rider up there, just to make sure, and she was fine."

Like Izarra, Worldly will be facing a full gate when he runs in the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sunday. Unlike the filly, however, Worldly is a thoroughly tested commodity who figures to give fellow European refugees Stoneside, Medici Code, and Bleu Intense a run for their money.

Worldly - nicknamed "Wally" around the Ben Cecil barn - sports victories in two stakes at Hollywood and a game second to Medici Code in the La Jolla Handicap at the current meet.

"I've spoiled him rotten," said Cecil as he fed Worldly a peppermint over the top run of his airy Del Mar pen. "But he is by far the most intelligent horse I've ever had, and probably the best since Golden Apples," the champion turf mare.

"And athletic!" Cecil went on. "He'll be lying down, get to his knee, and then the next thing he'll have all four legs off the ground."

Cecil trains Worldly primarily because the horse was bred by his aunt Catherine Corbett in partnership with Chrysalis Records co-founder Christopher Wright, from a mating of Selkirk and their Warning mare Miss Universe. She was lightly raced but at least placed in group company.

Cecil, a nephew of 10-time British champion trainer Henry Cecil, also trains Worldly because the gelding bled badly in his third start last year in England, a handicap at Newmarket. America, with bleeder medication legally available, seemed the best alternative.

"Halfway through that Newmarket race he had blood gushing from both nostrils," Cecil said. "I gave him the usual time to acclimate, and since he's been here he's never even looked like bleeding. I don't know if it was nerves, or what, but over here, with a pony in the post parade, I think it helps."

What should help even more, contends Cecil, is the return for the derby of Victor Espinoza, who was committed out of town when the La Jolla was run. In the La Jolla, under Michael Baze, Worldly was compromised by a slow pace, then let Medici Code get first run home and lost by 1 1/4 lengths.

"He should have won that one, but it didn't set up well," Cecil said. "Victor is very familiar with him. He works him all the time and knows him like a book."