06/12/2003 12:00AM

Calkins Road starts down path to Gold Cup

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For Tom Shapiro, the Hollywood Gold Cup is the centerpiece of his family's sporting legacy. Shapiro's grandfather, L.K. Shapiro, campaigned Native Diver, who won three consecutive Gold Cups from 1965-67.

On July 13, the Gold Cup will be run for the 64th time. Tom Shapiro and wife Debbie are hoping that their Calkins Road will be in the field. Saturday, Calkins Road can earn a trip to the $750,000 Gold Cup when he makes his 4-year-old debut in the $400,000 Californian Stakes over 1 1/8 miles.

Last year, Calkins Road won 3 of 6 starts and $374,100, winning two $250,000 stakes for California-breds - the Snow Chief against 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park in April and the California Cup Classic against older horses at Santa Anita in November, which is his most recent start.

A pastern infection forced Calkins Road out of training during the winter. He was sent to the Shapiro's Rocking Horse Ranch in Santa Ynez, Calif., which is located on Calkins Road.

Calkins Road, a 4-year-old colt, will be trying to win his first graded stakes in the Grade 2 Californian. Trained by John Shirreffs, Calkins Road was third in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap last June, finishing nine lengths behind Came Home.

The Californian has the toughest group Calkins Road has faced. The competition includes the millionaire Western Pride and four other stakes winners.

"It's a tough spot for a comeback," Tom Shapiro said.

Shapiro said that Calkins Road must run well to go to the Gold Cup.

Ruler's Court wins first asking

Ruler's Court gave trainer Eoin Harty his first juvenile winner of the year in California in Wednesday's fourth race.

Making his career debut, Ruler's Court ran a smart race, stalking 28-1 Westcoast Thunder through a quick pace of 21.31 and 44.71 seconds. Ruler's Court ($3.80) took the lead inside the eighth pole and held off a late rally from Wild Wadi to win by two lengths.

Ruler's Court ran the five furlongs in 57.40 seconds. He may return in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship at six furlongs July 19.

Ruler's Court was purchased for $400,000 by John Ferguson for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Stud Management at a Florida 2-year-olds in training sale in February. After the sale, the colt stayed in Florida until Harty brought the rest of the stable to Santa Anita from Dubai in April.

This is the fourth season that Harty has trained for the Maktoum family of Dubai. In 2000, his stable was led by Street Cry, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and won the 2002 Dubai World Cup. In 2001, Harty trained his first champion, Tempera, the nation's outstanding 2-year-old filly and the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Last year, Harty's stable was hit by a virus that limited its number of starters. The stable left for Dubai in October and November and did not have a starter in the Breeders' Cup.

This year, Harty is training several 3-year-olds along with a large group of 2-year-olds.

Vet fined by stewards

Ray Baran, the racing veterinarian at Hollywood Park, was fined $1,500 by track stewards on Thursday for being absent from the paddock before the first race on May 23 when Magical Flight flipped and struck her head on the ground.

Magical Flight was later euthanized because of a massive head injury.

Track stewards said Baran was cited for not being in the paddock at the time of the accident. California racing rules state that the racing veterinarian "shall be in the paddock" when horses are saddled.

Baran declined to comment on the ruling, citing the need to speak with his attorney, Neil Papiano.

Papiano said that Baran was in the steward's office, near the paddock, at the time of the accident. Papiano described the ruling as a "ridiculous situation."

"He was in the steward's room at the time of the accident," Papiano said. "The stewards said that's only 30 seconds away. Everyone said if he had been standing next to the horse it couldn't have been saved.

- Saturday could be a productive day for the dam Downtown Blues. Two of her foals run in graded stakes. In the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, Night Patrol, a 7-year-old gelding by Storm Boot, will attempt to upset Storming Home. Night Patrol has earned $704,273. Night Patrol's 3-year-old half-sister, Harbor Blues, starts in the $200,000 Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks.