07/27/2006 12:00AM

Canani willing to forgive Attima's flop

Attima, who will break from post 9 under Victor Espinoza, is a threat to get loose on the lead in the Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. - Attima's last-place finish in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 2 left trainer Julio Canani stunned. It was a performance too poor to be true after Attima had won her first two starts in the United States, including the Grade 2 Honeymoon Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Nearly a month later, Canani is still puzzled over the American Oaks, but ready to try Attima in Saturday's $150,000 San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf at Del Mar. He is hoping the Grade 2 San Clemente will lead to a strong second half of the season for the still-promising French import.

"I don't know what happened," Canani said of the American Oaks. "I've got no clue. I was surprised that she ran that way."

Owned by Anthony Fanticola and Joseph Scardino, Attima will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who was aboard for the filly's first two starts. He rode the Japanese invader Asahi Rising to a runner-up finish in the American Oaks.

will start from post 9 in a field of 10. Attima will take her customary position on the front and may not have much company. Secret Scheme, who is making her stakes debut, has speed. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Secret Scheme has won four of five starts in northern California.

Other contenders include Arlene, the runner-up in the Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park in May; Sol Mi Fa, who won the Bay Meadows BC Oaks in May; and Soothsay and Tasha's Delight, who were second and third in the Flawlessly Stakes at Hollywood Park in July.

finished seventh in the Honeymoon after racing near the front. Trainer Don Chatlos said she is better from off the pace.

"She ran well in the Senorita," he said. "She threw in a clunker in the Honeymoon. She's a better horse than that. We want to take her back to last and give her one run. This is not the ideal turf course to do that, but that's the way she runs best."

are trained by Jim Cassidy. Both have run well in stakes, although Sol Mi Fa followed her win in the Bay Meadows Oaks with a fifth in the American Oaks. Cassidy questioned whether the 1 1/4 miles of the American Oaks was too far for Sol Mi Fa, who bled slightly, he said.

"The American Oaks was a tough spot," Cassidy said.

Soothsay finished 1 1/2 lengths behind winner Charming N Lovable in the Flawlessly and was 2 1/4 lengths in front of Tasha's Delight, a contender in the San Clemente.

Cassidy said he thought that Soothsay could have won the one-mile Flawlessly if jockey David Flores had experienced a better trip in the stretch.

"He couldn't get up," Cassidy said. "If the race had been a mile and sixteenth, I'd have taken home the trophy. The thing I'm worried about is getting her to relax. If she relaxes, she'll be in good shape."

The field

San Clemente Handicap
Purse: $150,000; 1 mile, turf; Grade 2

1Hill of GraceD. Sorenson11320-1
2ArleneD. Flores11710-1
3Sol Mi FaN. Arroyo Jr.11615-1
4Tasha's DelightM. Baze1148-1
5SoothsayC. Nakatani1165-1
6Secret SchemeA. Solis1167-2
7Musical HighM. Pedroza11320-1
8True and TrueA. Bisono11420-1
9AttimaV. Espinoza1206-5
10Lake MarinaM. Garcia11130-1

* Odds by Michael Hammersly
* Television: Saturday, 5-6 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN