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HORSE RACING

Canani Seeking Old 1-2

June 16, 2000|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Formerly called the Premiere Handicap and, for one meet in 1950, the Preview Handicap, the $350,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile is Hollywood Park's oldest stakes race.

In the first 56 runnings, five trainers have been able to win the race in consecutive years, beginning with Jim Nazworthy, who did it twice, in 1959, and, most recently, Charlie Whittingham. He won with Peace in 1989 and Shining Steel the following year.

Julio Canani can do more than join that club Sunday, when he sends out 1999 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Silic and Ladies Din in the Shoemaker, which was elevated to a Grade I race this year.

Besides looking for a repeat in the one-mile turf race with Silic, Canani will be trying to become the first trainer to finish 1-2 in the Shoemaker with the same horses in consecutive years.

For that matter, nobody can recall any trainer accomplishing that feat in any graded stakes.

Twelve months ago, Silic, who began his career in Europe, earned his first win in the United States with a thrilling nose decision over Ladies Din. Hawksley Hill, Brave Act and Lord Smith were among those who finished behind them.

Coupled in the betting due to common ownership--Terry Lanni and Bernie Schiappa have interest in both 5-year-olds--Silic and Ladies Din were 4-1 in 1999, but they will be favored when they try for a pre-summer rerun.

Making a bit of history isn't something Canani has given much thought.

"It was exciting last year, and it would be exciting if they were able to run 1-2 again this year," he said. "It would be very nice."

Although he is seldom overly expressive about his horses, it is clear the trainer is confident.

"They're both doing very well," he said.

Before last year's Shoemaker, Silic had finished a troubled sixth as the favorite in his U.S. debut, then was fourth, beaten by less than a length, by Tuzla, who was then also trained by Canani, in the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

After getting the money in his return to Hollywood Park, the son of Sillery was fifth in the Atto Mile at Woodbine, then concluded his year with victories in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita and the Breeders' Cup Mile at Gulfstream Park.

Plans called for him to have a similar campaign in 2000, but a foot problem delayed his return and forced Canani to skip the San Francisco, which he won anyway with Ladies Din, and train Silic up to the Shoemaker.

A winner of seven of 14 races, Silic has trained well and has shown the ability to perform after a layoff.

"Before he went 58 3/5 on Wednesday, he worked 59 3/5 on the dirt here and went seven furlongs on the turf in 1:25 and galloped out a mile in 1:37 and change," Canani said. "The foot's fine. I've always believed he's a good horse, and he looks and acts just like he's as good as he was last year."

Claimed as a 2-year-old from trainer David La Croix and later transferred to Canani from Ron Ellis, Ladies Din had been a source of frustration for the trainer in 1999.

After a successful 3-year-old campaign, the gelded son of Din's Dancer was winless in seven starts at age 4. He did run second twice and third four times but was beaten three times as the favorite.

He began the new year with two more losses. He finished a well-beaten fourth in the San Gabriel Handicap on New Year's Day at Santa Anita, then was fifth--while bleeding when racing without Lasix--in a $2-million stakes in Dubai on March 25, the day of the Dubai World Cup.

But the long trip, Canani insists, did wonders for Ladies Din. Immediately upon returning to Santa Anita, there was a change in the horse.

"Since he came back from there, he's a different animal," Canani said. "He was more eager when he got back and he was doing so well I decided to run him in the race at Golden Gate [on April 29]."

Given the history of how badly some horses have fared after returning from Dubai, Canani knew he would be criticized if Ladies Din flopped in Northern California.

Instead of extending his losing streak, the Florida-bred won for the ninth time, outgaming Fighting Falcon to win by a head under Kent Desormeaux.

"I knew I would get a lot of heat if he didn't run well, but I didn't see any reason not to run him," the trainer said.

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