03/14/2002 1:00AM

Canani takes shot in tiny field


ALBANY, Calif. - There are four reasons why trainer Nick Canani decided to run Devine Wind in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Golden Gate Breeders' Cup Handicap.

With only four other horses entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf race at Golden Gate Fields, Canani decided it was worth a shot.

"The size of the field led to it," he said of the decision to run. "My horse is really doing well right now. He's training well and bounced out of his last race good. Whenever you get a chance to run for that kind of money, you look at it closely."

In addition to Devine Wind, the Bobby Frankel-trained duo of Sumitas and No Slip, Kerrygold, and Poker Brad entered the race.

Frankel, who sent Decarchy north to win the Grade 3 Tanforan Handicap last month, didn't nominate him to this race.

The timing of the race worked well for Frankel. No Slip, winner of last year's Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita, will make his second start of the year after finishing ninth behind Decarchy in the Kilroe Mile on March 2 at Santa Anita. Sumitas, the highweight at 119 pounds, will make his first start since a sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup on Dec. 1.

The small field makes it a tactical race. Frankel, though, is not overly concerned about tactics.

"I've got one horse with speed [Sumitas] and one horse who comes off the pace [No Slip}," Frankel said.

Canani doesn't plan on giving jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. many instructions.

"With this short of a field, it's more of a jockeys' race," he said. "You can't say before a race, 'Well, this is what will happen.' "

Devine Wind, who won the Bay Meadows Handicap in 2000, has made two starts this year. He was second in the Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 2 and second in the Reb's Policy in a sprint down the Santa Anita hillside turf course on Feb. 27.

The start at Turf Paradise was Devine Wind's first in nine months after a fifth-place finish in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park.

"We just freshened him," Canani said. "He'd run hard and really racked up the frequent flyer miles."

Coming out of a sprint, Devine Wind may show a bit more speed than usual, but Canani will rely on Valdivia to do the right things.

"This horse is very versatile," Canani said. "He can make one run if there's lots of speed or go to the lead. He's just a runner. He tries hard. Jose knows him. He rode him at Turf Paradise and has breezed him."

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