03/29/2004 12:00AM

U.S. runners garner $7M

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - When it comes to sprinting or racing 1 1/4 miles on dirt, American horses are supposed to be best, and they lived up to their reputation Saturday night on the Dubai World Cup program at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse.

Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d'Oro finished one-two in the $6 million Dubai World Cup at 1 1/4 miles, and Our New Recruit, of California, scored a surprising victory over Alke, from Florida, in the $2 million Golden Shaheen sprint.

Overall, the 13 American horses who competed earned $7,180,000 - the biggest take by American horses in nine World Cup programs - of the $15.25 million offered on the seven-race card. The prizes ranged from $3.6 million earned by Pleasantly Perfect to $20,000 by During for a sixth-place finish in the $1 million Godolphin Mile.

Five American horses raced in the Sprint, including Cajun Beat, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Sprint last October at Santa Anita. He was prominent early but faded to finish fourth. He was kicked before the race by a pony, according to jockey Jerry Bailey, which may have affected his performance. Other disappointments were During, who was favored in the Mile, and Sarafan, who was given an upset chance in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free. He finished 10th of 11.

The stretch run by Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d'Oro lived up to expectations, five months after they finished first and second in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Pleasantly Perfect rallied late to take a narrow lead with an eighth of a mile to go down Nad Al Sheba's long stretch. But Medaglia d'Oro came on again before Pleasantly Perfect put him away to win by three-quarters of a length.

The win was a first in Dubai for owner Gerald Ford of Dallas, trainer Richard Mandella, and jockey Alex Solis. Mandella had been second in the World Cup three times, including the inaugural running in 1996 when Soul of the Matter missed by a half-length to Cigar.

Pleasantly Perfect, a 6-year-old by Pleasant Colony, had a heart problem that delayed his career, a bleeding problem that prevented a start in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park, and minor injuries that curtailed his 2003 season. He missed the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 6 because of an elevated temperature.

"He's a great horse," Mandella said. "He only took a while to show it because of the sickness. I look back on it with no frustration, but if he hadn't had it, he might have been a Derby horse. But it kept me from ruining him."

Pleasantly Perfect increased his earnings to $6,699,880, which puts him sixth on the all-time list. He will not start again until the summer, possibly the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August. The long-term goal is a defense of the Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run at Lone Star Park in October.

"We'll try to pay him back for what he just did," Mandella said.

Vacations in order

For many of the American runners, a lengthy break is expected.

John Sadler, basking in the glory of Our New Recruit's upset win, said he will not start the 5-year-old until the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap at Oak Tree in October. The BC Sprint is the long-term goal.

Plans were not set for Medaglia d'Oro, but trainer Bobby Frankel, who did not attend the Dubai World Cup, is likely to give him a long break.

Firebreak (the winner of the Godolphin Mile), and Polish Summer (Sheema Classic) are bound for Europe, while Paolini (who dead-heated with Right Approach in the Duty Free) may start in international races in Hong Kong or Singapore.

Lundy's Liability (UAE Derby) and Right Approach are expected to return to trainer Michael de Kock's base in South Africa.

Railbirds and royalty

The Dubai World Cup program was run primarily after dark on a muggy night in the Persian Gulf, with the temperature nearly 80 degrees. Local post time for the World Cup, the final race on the card, was 8:20 p.m., or 12:20 p.m. Eastern in the United States.

By the first race, for Arabian racehorses, the free stands were filled by local residents. The ruling Maktoum family and their invited guests were seated on leather couches and comfortable chairs in the grandstand overlooking the finish line, and thousands of rowdy racegoers were accommodated in temporary stands and hospitality tents that extended down the stretch.

Handle up from 2003

All-sources handle from North American betting sites on the six-race Dubai World Cup card was $2,573,259, an increase of 3.3 percent over last year's total of $2,491,826.

Handle on the World Cup itself was $1,494,365, up 3.5 percent from last year. The World Cup and five supporting races on the card were available at more than 600 locations this year, although some locations did not take bets on all six races.

"We're quite pleased," said Scott Finley, an official with Attheraces, the company that administered the simulcast in North America. "The numbers are good, and we were in a record number of locations."

Canadians bet into separate pools because of tax issues. Total betting in Canada, a number that is included in the all-sources figure, was $159,671, with $86,330 bet on the World Cup.

Prices on the World Cup in the North American commingled pool reflected the popularity of the U.S. horses in the race. Pleasantly Perfect, the U.S.-based horse who won the Breeders' Cup Classic last year, paid $7.40 to win as the second choice.

The $2 exacta paid $15.60. The $2 trifecta, with Victory Moon third, paid $57.60.

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty