Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Honoring Pleasantly Perfect

“Man, oh, Mandella!”
When Pleasantly Perfect won the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), he recorded Richard Mandella’s extraordinary fourth Breeders’ Cup win of the day. Now, eight years later, his son, Rapid Redux, recorded a record 20th consecutive victory.
By Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Pleasant Colony, and out of the group one-winning Affirmed mare Regal State, Pleasantly Perfect is a half to the group three-winning Hurricane State and to Swagger Stick, who was graded stakes-placed on the flat and a very talented steeplechaser, having won a hurdle stakes and placed in two graded steeplechases, including a grade one. Clearly, Pleasantly Perfect has plenty of stamina in his pedigree.

Pleasantly Perfect
Photo: Terri Cage

This was displayed throughout his racing career. Pleasantly Perfect began racing as a three-year-old and earned his first win in his fourth start, winning a one mile maiden special weight on the dirt at Santa Anita with Mike Smith aboard as a four-year-old. After finishing second to eventual graded stakes-placed and stakes-winning Hot Market in an allowance optional claiming, Pleasantly Perfect reeled off two impressive allowance victories.
It was time for Pleasantly Perfect to enter the big leagues. His first stakes race was a tall task: the Pacific Classic Stakes (GI). Under Alex Solis, the striking bay was beaten just two and three-quarters lengths, finishing fourth behind three horses that had a combined twelve American graded stakes wins.
Then came Pleasantly Perfect’s first shining moment: a victory in the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap (GII). In an impressive final time of 1:46.80 for nine furlongs, the Richard Mandella trainee defeated horses that had won or would go on to win a total of twelve American graded stakes races, as well as several international group wins.
The four-year-old was poised to run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Arlington Park, but did not run due to the fact that he was not labeled as a bleeder, according to the Illinois racing board’s medication rules. After a four-month layoff, the now five-year-old returned in the San Antionio Handicap (GII) at Santa Anita, finishing third behind multiple grade one winners Congaree and Milwaukee Brew.
In his second start after his layoff, Pleasantly Perfect ran a fairly disappointing fourth behind Milwaukee Brew, Congaree, and eventual grade one winner, Kudos. He did not race again for seven months and returned in the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap to defend his title.
Becoming just the second horse to do so, Pleasantly Perfect repeated in the Goodwood. Coming home in a final eighth of a mile of 12.27 seconds, Pleasantly Perfect gamely conquered eventual Japan Cup Dirt (GI) winner, Fleetstreet Dancer.
Three weeks later, it was “Man, oh, Mandella!” time. Striking like a cobra with a sixteenth of a mile left, the son of Pleasant Colony swept by Medaglia d’Oro and Congaree. From there on, Alex Solis didn’t hit him with the whip and crossed the wire triumphantly, a length and one-half ahead of the others. The win boosted the bay’s career earnings to nearly $3 million.

Extending his winning streak, Pleasantly Perfect returned in January as a six-year-old in the San Antonio Handicap to prep for the Dubai World Cup (GI), the richest race in the world. By four lengths, the radiant bay defeated the likes of three horses he had faced before: Star Cross, Fleetstreet Dancer, and Congaree. Altogether, those three horses had $5,301,995 in earnings by the time their careers ended.
Two months later, Pleasantly Perfect raced outside of California for the first time ever. In fact, he raced outside of the United States for the first time ever. It was time for the Dubai World Cup, which had a $6,000,000 purse at the time. Down the stretch, Pleasantly Perfect battled against the horse that had become his rival in the biggest races, Medaglia d’Oro, before edging clear in the final yards to take the world’s richest horse race.
Pleasantly Perfect did not appear in a race again until August, when he was just caught by Choctaw Nation in the San Diego Handicap (GII). Choctaw Nation would go on to win the race again the next year.
Pleasantly Perfect returned to his winning ways in the $1,000,000 Pacific Classic three weeks later. By crossing the wire victoriously, he defeated the winners of twenty group or graded stakes. The final time was a good 2:01.17 for a mile and one-quarter. It was the third group or grade one stakes race Pleasantly Perfect had won at the distance.
The six-year-old traveled to Lone Star Park in Texas to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, he had to deal with the likes of the eventual Horse of the Year, Ghostzapper, and the horse that would go on to win the 2005 Dubai World Cup, Roses in May. It didn’t help that he broke slowly, had to travel wide, and had a bit of a traffic problem. He still got up to finish third, leaving behind him the winners of nineteen American grade ones.
Pleasantly Perfect’s career was ended due to an ankle injury that was believed to be caused by the horse kicking a starting gate. He entered his stud career at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, having won 50% of his starts and finishing in the money in nearly 78% of them. His career earnings were $7,789,880, which makes him the seventh richest racehorse of all time.
So far, he has sired Shared Account, who won the 2010 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (GI); Cozi Rosie, who is a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf; Setsuko, who has placed in many graded stakes races; and of course Rapid Redux, who now holds the modern North American record of 20 consecutive wins.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Pleasantly Perfect in person twice. He surely inherited his sturdy build from both his sire and dam. He has short, sturdy cannon bones that form straight lines and support his 17 hands-high build. Due to his long, sloping shoulder, he is extremely evenly balanced, which results in a short topline in comparison to a longer underline. His muscle tone is very impressive, giving him a rounded hip and shoulder. Tying in well to his sloping shoulder is his long neck. For more on correct conformation, read "That's a Good-Looking Horse."
Pleasantly Perfect is a very underestimated sire. Despite the fact that he never did much on the turf himself, he has produced many talented turf horses. He is also capable of producing both stamina and speed. Shared Account won the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at a mile and three-eighths whereas his son, Silverside, won the Bestwetten.de Goldene Peitsche (GER-II) at six furlongs. Rapid Redux is the perfect example of Pleasantly Perfect’s versatility, having won from a range of five furlongs to a mile and one-eighth during his winning streak.
Pleasantly Perfect is one of the best horses of the past decade and definitely has the potential to keep climbing the stallion rankings. It’s not easy to win races at many different distances, let alone twenty times in a row like Rapid Redux did. It’s not easy to win a Breeders’ Cup race at a long distance on the turf like Shared Account did. And it’s definitely not easy to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Dubai World Cup, and the Pacific Classic. Yet Pleasantly Perfect did.

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