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HORSE RACING

Santa Catalina Run Is a Lab for Ladies Din

Thoroughbred racing: Trainer will use Santa Anita Derby prep to see if his former claimer can run on the dirt.

January 30, 1998|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The path to the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 4 begins in earnest Sunday.

Souvenir Copy, the most accomplished 2-year-old in California last year, based on victories in the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes, will make his first start of 1998 in the $100,000 Santa Catalina Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Idle since finishing a troubled fourth behind unbeaten Favorite Trick in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last Nov. 8 at Hollywood Park, Souvenir Copy will be the only graded stakes winner in the 1 1/16 mile race.

That isn't to suggest, however, the field is lacking in talent. Among those expected to be entered are Artax, who was second to Real Quiet in the Hollywood Futurity last month; Allen's Oop, third in the recent Golden Gate Derby and second to the highly regarded Orville N Wilbur's in an allowance sprint before that; and Skeaping, a lightly raced son of Storm Bird who broke his maiden by seven lengths on Dec. 26, Santa Anita's opening day.

In addition, the Santa Catalina, which has produced three horses who went on to win the Santa Anita Derby--Larry The Legend in 1995, An Act in 1976 and Sham in 1973--will have something of a wild card.

Ladies Din, who was claimed for $32,000 after a maiden victory last summer at Del Mar and who has run his last four races on the turf, will return to the main track Sunday.

Julio Canani, the gelding's trainer, following David La Croix and Ron Ellis, doesn't know if the son of Din's Dancer will be as effective on dirt as he has been on turf.

But if you have a 3-year-old with ability at this time of year, it's worth finding out.

In the second of his two races on dirt, Ladies Din won for La Croix. Then, after being claimed by Ellis for owners Terry Lanni, Bernie Schiappa and Mike Sloan, he won an allowance race on the grass shortly before Del Mar concluded.

Transferred to Canani's barn at the beginning of the Oak Tree meeting in October, Ladies Din ran second in the Pinjara, then was disqualified in the Precisionist at Hollywood Park.

He made no mistakes in his recent victory in the Hill Rise Handicap on the Santa Anita turf, prompting Canani to try a surface change to see what kind of 3-year-old he has.

"He's doing super," said Canani, 59, who returned to training last year after a four-year hiatus. "He blew out a half-mile [in 48 1/5 seconds] on Wednesday and he's really doing great.

"You have to take a chance [on dirt] eventually. We're hoping the race sets up for him. I think this horse will handle anything. I don't know if he is going to do as well on dirt as he has been on turf, but I have to find out."

Canani, who scored his biggest win when Martial Law won the 1989 Santa Anita Handicap at 51-1, said the best is yet to come for Ladies Din. He won't actually turn 3 until May 6, four days after the Kentucky Derby.

"His last race was the first time he ran straight," Canani said. "He's learning and he's a very easy horse to train. He does things with very little effort, and he's got a big, long stride and that's why I think he'll handle the dirt."

With Gary Stevens, who has ridden Ladies Din in his last three races, staying with Skeaping, Alex Solis will be aboard for the first time in the Santa Catalina.

*

Elmhurst, making his first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint at 16-1 nearly three months ago, drew Post 4 of 12 for Saturday's $200,000 Palos Verdes Handicap.

The six-furlong race also attracted, from the inside out, Scurry Home, The Exeter Man, Paying Dues, Funontherun, Swiss Yodeler, Big Find, Larry The Legend, Trafalger, Venus Genus, Red and Tower Full.

Horse Racing Notes

There is a Pick Six carry-over for today of $66,232.72. The biggest upset on Thursday was provided by Thingamajig, who paid $108.20 when he won the sixth race. This was the second win in 14 starts for the 3-year-old son of Bolger, and he paid $131.80 when he broke his maiden last July 17 at Hollywood Park. . . . Apprentice jockey J.C. Gonzalez, injured in a spill during the Oak Tree meeting Oct. 24, is expected to be riding next week.

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