07/03/2002 11:00PM

Another era, another Klein


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Michael Klein was on the sidelines in the 1980's when his colorful father, Eugene, stormed his way through Thoroughbred racing, campaigning a stable that included six champions. At the time, he was more interested in the stock market than bloodstock.

That changed this year. On Saturday, Michael Klein will have his first starter when Dublino runs for a partnership in the newly formed $500,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park.

Kent Desormeaux, who rides Dublino, will wear the familiar yellow and blue silks made famous by such champions as Lady's Secret and Winning Colors.

"We're going to run under the old silks," Michael Klein said. "I hope someone recognizes our colors." For veteran racing fans, it should be easy.

The late Eugene Klein's name was synonymous with racing in the 1980's. Working with trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Klein's runners won nine Eclipse Awards. For three consecutive years, from 1985-87, Klein and his wife, Joyce, who still lives in the San Diego area, were honored with the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding owners.

Eugene Klein dispersed his holdings at Keeneland in November 1989 when 114 horses sold for $29.6 million. Four months later, Klein, who had a history of heart problems, died.

Michael Klein, 55, followed his father's sporting pursuits early in his adult life. He was actively involved when the family owned the NFL's San Diego Chargers from 1966 to 1984. He was not active in the racing stable, which did catch the attention of his son Adam, who is now 23. "I'm doing this as much for him," Michael said.

Klein joined the Dublino partnership on the advice of bloodstock agent Emmanuel de Seroux and friend Bruce McNall, a former horse owner who was imprisoned in the late 1990's for bank fraud. Laura de Seroux, Emmanuel's wife, trains Dublino, who has one win in two starts in France and was stakes placed in Paris in April.

Dublino's U.S. debut comes in a race that has drawn runners from throughout the world. The American Oaks was developed over the winter by Hollywood Park management and has been a yearlong project for racing secretary Martin Panza.

"Of the American horses, there are no fillies that turned us down as far as turf horses go," Panza said. "If anything, it brought more fillies to California." The American Oaks, which drew 15 entries, comes a week before two signature races at Hollywood Park - the Swaps Stakes and Hollywood Gold Cup, which will have small fields.

Track officials consider the American Oaks to have showcase potential.

"It's a major shot in the arm for the stakes program," said Hollywood Park president Rick Baedeker. "With the Gold Cup, it's tough to get marquee names because of the competition, but this we can call our own. It can be a signature race."

The Dublino partnership includes Liberty Road Stables and San Gabriel Investments.

"I have enough to be listed first," Klein said of his level of investment. Michael Klein operates an investment company. He is reluctant to guess how involved he will become in racing, but admits that Emmanuel de Seroux is searching for more prospects on his behalf.

"I'm not really sure what I want to," Michael Klein said. "I'm very comfortable with Emmanuel and Laura.

"My dad was never a racing fan and then he made this big transition from football to racing. The horses didn't talk back and they didn't ask for bigger stalls. They were great statements.

"I can't tell you how involved I'll get until it happens. Knowing my personality and genetic pool, I could get involved."