10/18/2002 12:00AM

BC Countdown - Turf: The Tin Man's heart tested by trip

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The Tin Man, the expected pacesetter for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf, will enter unchartered territory when the field turns for home at Arlington Park on Saturday.

When he starts as a longshot in the Turf next weekend, The Tin Man will be attempting 1 1/2 miles on turf for the first time. The new distance is the latest experiment that trainer Richard Mandella has tried with The Tin Man in the last year. So far, most of Mandella's tinkering has worked, and his efforts have placed The Tin Man among the nine hopefuls for the BC Turf.

Through 2001, The Tin Man has gone from winner of a maiden race to winner of a Grade 1 - the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship at Santa Anita on Oct. 6. He has raced exclusively on turf, a rarity for an American-based horse.

Along the way, Mandella tried The Tin Man in top company over a one-mile trip, which resulted in a disappointing ninth in the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park on May 27. Through late summer, The Tin Man raced over longer distances, and the plan largely succeeded.

Owned by Ralph and Aury Todd, The Tin Man won the American Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park on July 4, finished a game second in the Del Mar Handiap over 1 3/8 miles on Sept. 1, and won the Hirsch over 1 1/4 miles on Oct. 6.

It wasn't until after the Hirsch that Mandella began planning for the Breeders' Cup Turf. In hindsight, he is content with the distances that The Tin Man has tried in recent months.

"I think you're better off going with a progression in distance," Mandella said. "You train a little differently to go long, but it's not a great difference in the training. With the Breeders' Cup three weeks after my race, I'm glad that race wasn't a mile and a half."

Mandella won the Turf in 1993 at Santa Anita with Kotashaan, who was later named male turf champion. In the back of his mind, Mandella is hoping that The Tin Man can develop into an equally strong contender for the 2003 running of the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.

"This might be a practice win," Mandella wisecracked.

There isn't likely to be many early challengers for The Tin Man in the Turf. The other eight entrants typically race from off the pace. High Chaparral, the star 3-year-old from Ireland, will be the likely favorite. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, High Chaparral came from off the pace to win the English and Irish derbies in June. In the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, he tracked the leaders and was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by Marienbard.

Ballingarry raced close to the pace when he won the Canadian International at Woodbine on Sept. 29. In the Turf, Ballingarry will have a new jockey in Kent Desormeaux.

Following that race, Ballingarry was acquired by a partnership that includes Sidney Port, Liberty Road Stables, and San Gabriel Investments and was sent back to Europe to complete quarantine.

Ballingarry was scheduled to work over approximately six furlongs at Chantilly, France, on Saturday and will arrive at Arlington Park on Monday, according to trainer Laura de Seroux.