09/26/2002 11:00PM

Age has yet to slow Yavana


ETOBICOKE, Ontario--How old is Yavana's Pace, the senior member of the field for Sunday's $1.5 million Canadian International?

For the literal-minded, the answer is 10. The more fanciful, however, may consider the following:

* Yavana's Pace is older than the surface over which he will be running Sunday, as the E.P. Taylor turf course opened in the summer of 1994.

* He was born during the same year as Smart Strike, who is the sire of another of this year's International entrants, the 3-year-old Portcullis.

* He is more than half the age of his jockey, 19-year-old Keith Dalgleish.

The point is that no matter how you slice it Yavana's Pace is a phenomenon, horse racing's version of Mick Jagger, who just keeps on touring. Unlike Jagger, he is bringing his act to North America for the first time.

And it's not that Yavana's Pace is coasting on past laurels, or has come to Canada to explore retirement options. On Aug. 11, in Cologne, Germany, Yavana's Pace became the oldest horse ever to win a Group 1 race in Europe. On Sunday, he could go one better than North American stars such as John Henry and John's Call, who recorded Grade 1 victories at 9.

"He doesn't know he's 10," said assistant trainer Hayley Brough, who has been a companion of Yavana's Pace since he moved over to trainer Mark Johnston's outfit in England following the close of his 5-year-old campaign.

Brough notes that Yavana's Pace has improved with age, but adds that Yavana's Pace has retained some of the traits that may have hindered his development earlier in his career.

"When we got him, he was a little bit funny," said Brough. "He was difficult to rate, and manage.

"He still has his moments. You can't bully him into doing anything; he goes when he's ready to go."

And that would appear to be often enough, as Yavana's Pace will be making his 74th start here Sunday.

An Irish-bred who began his career in his homeland, Yavana's Pace has been to Australia (for the 1999 Melbourne Cup), Denmark, Dubai, France, Germany, and Switzerland.

And, adding a touch of spice to the current voyage is the fact that Yavana's Pace raced just last Sunday in Germany, finishing third in the Group 1 Grosser Preis Von Europa.

The International also will be Yavana's Pace's third start in three weeks, which for most horses probably would be considered a far too taxing scenario. But on this count as well, Yavana's Pace is an exception.

The gelding ran three times in two weeks last September, with the third of those efforts a second-place finish in the Von Europa. In May of 2000 Yavana's Pace ran three times in the span of 16 days, coming closest when third on the final occasion.

He won a listed race over 1 3/4 miles at Goodwood Aug. 28, 1999; returned seven days later to repeat in a Group 3 over 1 1/2 miles at Epsom; and then was second two weeks later in the Group 1 Irish St. Leger at the Curragh.

And in July of 1998 Yavana's Pace ran no less than five times, finishing second in each of the last three races within a span of six days.

"He's tough, and genuine," said Brough, who bristles at the suggestion that Yavana's Pace's mission is to ensure an honest pace for his stablemate, the probable favorite Zindabad.

"He usually runs from the front," she acknowledges. "He likes to lead - it's where he runs his best - but he doesn't have to. He's certainly not a pacemaker for our other horse. He's here to win as much as Zindabad is."