06/28/2009 11:00PM

Would you believe a win off a six-year layoff?

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Trainer Dean Pederson is going to inspire a new Daily Racing Form statistical category for trainers - first start in 2,000-plus days. Pederson sent Military Mandate out for a victory in an $8,000 claimer at Stockton last Thursday, the 8-year-old's first start since the summer of 2003.

Military Mandate ( ) won his debut as a 2-year-old on June 18, 2003, at Hollywood Park. He ran third in the Graduation Stakes and the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar later that summer, but was injured after the Best Pal and didn't run again until last week.

"I really don't know the story, but he got hurt as a 2-year-old," Pederson said.

Military Mandate was on a ranch in Manteca in California's central valley area for most of the last six years. He arrived in Pederson's barn in April.

"He had physical problems, but I said we'd give it a try," Pederson said. "I said if he ever came back from a work with a problem, we wouldn't go any further."

Pederson had to treat him like a horse coming to the track for the first time, but he saw glimpses of the talent the horse displayed as a 2-year-old, and Military Mandate even handled gate drills like a pro.

"It was like he'd been off six months instead of six years," Pederson said.

Pederson tried to find an easy spot for Military Mandate and decided on the $8,000 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs.

"I expected him to run well because he had been training good," Pederson said. "And we didn't go and try to make a stakes runner out of him."

Pederson was concerned with how Military Mandate would react in the paddock, but said the horse was "an old pro" there before the race. "That's when I really began to feel good," he said.

Military Mandate was reluctant to enter the starting gate, but once in, he broke sharply and went to the lead under Francisco Duran. He spurted to a three-length lead after turning for home and cruised to victory 53 days short of six years since his last start.

"He came out of the race well," Pederson said. "The hard part is over now. We just have to keep him fit. Whatever he does now is a bonus."

Stockton thinks pink

Sunday's Pink Ribbon Stakes at Stockton was run, in part, to raise awareness and money for the American Breast Cancer Society.

Jockeys riding in the stakes wore hot pink helmet covers and pink stripes, and a pink ribbon logo on their pants. All the staff, from mutuel tellers to valets and starting gate crew, wore pink shirts and caps, and all ponies had hot pink saddle towels.

Patrons were encouraged to "Bet on a cure for cancer" by contributing $2 win tickets as well as cash donations. Pink-ribbon shirts and caps were also sold.

Top mules return

With the fairs come mules, Arabians and Quarter Horses, breeds rarely seen at the major California tracks.

The two top mules both won at Stockton last week, with 10-year-old Sarah Nelson winning an allowance race Wednesday in her first start since last October, and the current queen of the mules, Bar JF Hot Ticket, winning easily Sunday.

Bar JF Hot Ticket, a 6-year-old mare, is 3 for 3 this year after going 9 for 9 last year. Her overall record is 28-3-2 in 34 starts. Sarah Nelson (51-21-7 from 83 starts) is the last mule to beat Hot Ticket. The two may meet at Pleasanton.

Meet promotions

On Wednesday's opening day, Pleasanton will hold its traditional T-shirt giveaway. The track will also conduct an opening day contest for both the most elegant and the most creative hats worn by racing fans. The fair will grant free admission to seniors on all three Wednesdays of the meet.

The track will also conduct "wiener dog" racing on July 18, a promotion that proved particularly popular at Golden Gate Fields.