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Pleasantly Perfect Has Edge

He holds off Medaglia d'Oro in the $6-million Dubai World Cup, repeating the results of the two horses in the Breeders' Cup.

March 28, 2004|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

Medaglia d'Oro made up half the distance that cost him the Breeders' Cup Classic, but it still wasn't enough to derail Pleasantly Perfect in Saturday's $6-million Dubai World Cup.

These two hard-knocking horses have run for $10 million the last two times they've met -- the Breeders' Cup was worth $4 million -- and Pleasantly Perfect is still on top. His winning margin Saturday was three-quarters of a length, after a 1 1/2-length win at Santa Anita in October.

"These are two tough horses," said Alex Solis, Pleasantly Perfect's jockey. "[In the stretch], Medaglia d'Oro kept coming back at us after we passed him. My horse likes to be hit left-handed, so I saved that, and when I hit him left-handed, he re-broke and went in front."

The win, worth $3.6 million to Pleasantly Perfect's owner, Gerald Ford of Dallas, ended a frustrating run for trainer Richard Mandella, whose horses had earned $3.5 million in the race but never finished better than second. In fact, Mandella had been second three times, most recently with Malek in 1999.

"You have to wonder if you are destined not to win after all those seconds," Mandella said. "But I knew this fellow had a great chance. He is a real class performer, and when he drew even in the stretch, I thought we had every chance. He passed Medaglia d'Oro before, remember. What a night!"

Mandella's win was tempered when he learned shortly after the race that his mentor, Victor J. "Lefty" Nickerson, had died Friday in New York. Mandella, still learning the game, had worked for Nickerson more than 30 years ago. He dedicated Saturday's win to Nickerson.

Betting is prohibited in Dubai, but elsewhere Pleasantly Perfect paid $7.40 to win. The purse boosted his career earnings to $6,699,880, which moved him into sixth place on the North American earnings list. Cigar, who earned $185 less than $10 million, and won the first World Cup, in 1996, heads the list.

Horses from the U.S. have won the World Cup four of the nine times it has been run. Pleasantly Perfect's win was the first for a U.S. horse since Captain Steve in 2001. Mandella had planned to run in both the Santa Anita Handicap and the World Cup, but Pleasantly Perfect missed the California race, on March 6, because of a fever.

After the all-California 1-2 finish, it was more than four lengths back to Victory Moon in third place. The rest of the order of finish was Grand Hombre, King's Boy, Domestic Dispute, Fleetstreet Dancer, Admire Don, Regent Bluff, Dinyeper, State Shinto and Silent Deal.

Fleetstreet Dancer, another California horse, set the pace before Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d'Oro had their duel down the long, 2 1/2-furlong stretch at the Nad al Sheba track.

Solis, who rode two of Mandella's record four wins on Breeders' Cup day, had a second win Saturday, riding trainer John Sadler's California import, Our New Recruit, to a two-length win over Alke in the $2-million Dubai Golden Shaheen Stakes.

Our New Recruit, who had won four non-stakes races in 15 starts, paid $28.60. The Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, Cajun Beat, finished fourth. Jerry Bailey, who rode Medaglia d'Oro as well as Cajun Beat, said that Cajun Beat had been kicked by his pony in the post parade. A track veterinarian examined the horse and allowed him to run.

"It was an amazing night," Solis said. "I would have been happy with one win, but to get two -- at the world's richest meeting -- is unbelievable. You just dream of nights like this."

In 2003-04, Our New Recruit had won only one of five starts, never leaving California.

"He had run a second and a third in two stakes back home," Sadler said. "He had some [traffic] trouble in one of the races. This surface is kinder than the one at Santa Anita, and he liked it."

Gary Stevens, who will ride for trainer Andre Fabre in France this year, rode Fabre's Polish Summer to a half-length win over Hard Buck in the $2-million Dubai Sheema Classic.

In other races on the $15.25-million card, Right Approach and Paolini finished in a dead heat in the $2-million Dubai Duty Free; Firebreak was best, ahead of Tropical Star and Excessivepleasure, to repeat in the $1-million Godolphin Mile; and Lundy's Liability won the $2-million United Arab Emirates Derby. Lundy's Liability is scheduled to be transferred to Mandella's barn at Santa Anita.

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Christine reported from Los Angeles.

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