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DEL MAR : Three Seek Return to Cup Form


DEL MAR — Breeders' Cup redux is an appropriate billing for Del Mar's weekend stakes activity as Magical Maiden, Thirty Slews and Zoonaqua try to regain the form that sent them into $1-million races last fall at Gulfstream Park.

Thirty Slews, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint at 18-1, has run only once since and will be trying to become the first repeat winner of the Bing Crosby Handicap since Cherry River in 1976-77. Sunday's $100,000 Crosby is at six furlongs, the same distance as the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Magical Maiden was almost as surprising as Thirty Slews at Gulfstream. After running the previous week at Santa Anita, she was shipped to Florida and finished third in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, behind Paseana and Versailles Treaty, earning $120,000 for owner Clement Hirsch.

Magical Maiden, who had a sore shoulder, runs today in the $55,000 Fantastic Girl Handicap, making her first start in more than six months and seeking her first victory in eight months.

Zoonaqua scored her first stakes victory in her second start in last year's Sorrento at Del Mar, and after adding the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita in October, looked dangerous going into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. A contender for three-quarters of a mile, she faded to seventh and has been winless in four races since, finishing last in both starts this year.

She will have another tough time Sunday in the $75,000 San Clemente Handicap, a one-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies that is expected to draw Hollywood Wildcat, recent winner of the Hollywood Oaks, who will be racing on turf for the first time.

Despite his victory in the Breeders' Cup, which frequently determines the national sprint champion, Thirty Slews was beaten by Rubiano, 191-68, in the voting for the Eclipse Award. Rubiano ran third in the Sprint, but had five stakes victories to Thirty Slews' three overall. Thirty Slews' stakes victories, besides the Breeders' Cup, were at Del Mar.

Thirty Slews underwent surgery before his Breeders' Cup campaign, and trainer Bob Baffert said that a throat infection curtailed the 6-year-old gelding's schedule this year. In his only start, at Hollywood Park on May 16, Thirty Slews was fourth in the Los Angeles Handicap. Baffert said that an inside post hurt his horse's chances that day.

Star Of The Crop, who won the Hollywood race, is also expected to run in the Crosby and will carry 119 pounds, two fewer than the top-weighted Thirty Slews.


Trainer Charlie Whittingham didn't enter Sir Beaufort in the Hollywood Gold Cup after the Santa Anita Handicap winner had run dismally twice earlier in the meeting at Hollywood Park. Sir Beaufort didn't win at Del Mar last year, either, but he ran two strong seconds and is the high weight, with 119 pounds, Saturday in the $125,000 San Diego Handicap.

Missionary Ridge, who rebounded from a fourth-place finish in last year's San Diego to win the $1-million Pacific Classic at 24-1 three weeks later, will be among Sir Beaufort's five opponents. Rounding out the field are L'Express, Fanatic Boy, Memo and Latin American, who beat Sir Beaufort in the Californian at Hollywood Park and has been assigned second high weight of 117 pounds.

All of the San Diego entrants, except Fanatic Boy, are eligible for the Pacific Classic on Aug. 21.

Horse Racing Notes

One of Dare To Duel's 20 owners collected more than his share of the purse by betting the 3-year-old colt, who won the second division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar on opening day Wednesday. A 1/20 share of the purse was $3,354; the member of the Suffolk Racing Partnership bet $1,000 to win and $1,000 to place on Dare To Duel for a net of $5,000. . . . Hall of Fame jockey Johnny Longden, 86, is the owner of a one-horse stable, and that horse, 2-year-old colt Our Blue Michael, broke his maiden Thursday. Our Blue Michael was ridden by John Atherton, who is married to Longden's granddaughter.

Trainer Bob Baffert's undefeated 2-year-old gelding, Flagship Commander, worked three furlongs Tuesday in 37 3/5 seconds, getting ready for the Balboa Stakes on Aug. 20. . . . Gilded Time, the 1992 champion 2-year-old male who was sidelined at Santa Anita this winter because of hoof problems, is in training again with trainer Darrell Vienna, and has no timetable for his next race.

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