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HORSE RACING

Luck Is Changing for Cerin Gelding

October 06, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

Today's riddle: What's better than winning a $1-million race with a horse you claimed for $62,500?

Answer: Winning a $1.5-million race with another $62,500 claimer, which Vladimir Cerin is in position to do when the Breeders' Cup Mile is run on Oct. 25.

Cerin, a 48-year-old trainer who has never had a Breeders' Cup starter, became a major player after he saddled Designed For Luck for his fast victory Sunday in the $300,000 Oak Tree Mile, which was run over the same Santa Anita grass course where the Breeders' Cup Mile will be contested. Designed For Luck could well be a nifty sequel to Early Pioneer, claimed by Cerin before he won the Hollywood Gold Cup at 24-1 in 2000.

Besides running in 1:32 3/5, which missed the stakes record by one-fifth of a second, Designed For Luck also beat Special Ring, a 7-10 favorite and considered in many circles to be the best chance the U.S. has in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

As was the case with Designed For Luck, Ruler's Court won in a fast time at Santa Anita. But trainer Eoin Harty's colt, after running third and fourth in a couple of other stakes, was also a convincing winner in the last of Sunday's stakes tripleheader, the $250,000 Norfolk -- by a race-record 14 lengths. Ruler's Court, bought at auction in February earlier for $400,000 by Sheik Mohammed of Dubai, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41 1/5 under Alex Solis to break another Norfolk record. Bertrando's nine-length win in 1991 was the old record for biggest winning margin.

"I just had to hold on," said Alex Solis, riding Ruler's Court for the first time."

Ruler's Court will probably be favored in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, run at the same distance as the Norfolk.

Designed For Luck, who was claimed by Cerin off his breeders, John and Betty Mabee, in the second start of his career in 1999, has been a misnamed horse whose fortunes may be turning at the right time.

A disqualification -- at 58-1 -- from first to fifth place in a $500,000 race, the 2000 Hollywood Derby, was only the start. Last year, a van ride from Santa Anita to Hollywood Park for the Shoemaker Mile left Designed For Luck lame by the time he reached the Inglewood track.

"I don't know what happened," Cerin said. "All I know is that he was dead lame when he got off the van. He had broken a hock. He wasn't even supposed to make it back as a riding horse."

Designed For Luck was given about two months off, then Cerin invested in an expensive magnetic pulsator and one of his assistants, Ramon Gonzalez, made the gelding his special project.

As a 6-year-old, Designed For Luck returned to racing in August, 17 months after his previous race.

Owned by David Wilson -- who had urged Cerin to claim Early Pioneer -- and his wife Holly, Designed For Luck paid $9.80 as the second choice. Patrick Valenzuela was aboard as the horse posted his ninth win in 19 starts for them.

Special Ring finished fourth, more than two lengths behind Designed For Luck, and trainer Julio Canani was heard gnashing his teeth as he berated David Flores' ride. "I told [Flores] to lay second with [Special Ring]," Canani said. "I wanted him to put the horse into the race."

Special Ring didn't break sharply and was fifth, 5 1/2 lengths from the lead, after the opening half-mile. "He was too relaxed today," Flores said. "On the first turn, when I got in that spot, I just had to wait and hope that he'd make a run in the end. But he didn't finish very strong."

*

Avanzado, the wire-to-wire winner of the six-furlong Ancient Title Handicap in 1:08, is not likely to run in the Breeders' Cup Sprint because of the $180,000 supplementary payment that would be required.... Dalakhani locked up European horse-of-the-year honors with his 3/4-length win over Mubtaker in the $1.8-million Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, but the Aga Khan, his breeder and owner, said he wouldn't run in the Breeders' Cup Turf. .... At Keeneland, Take Charge Lady beat You by a head as she won the Overbrook Spinster for the second consecutive year.

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