05/18/2006 11:00PM

Cerin glad to be back from layoff


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With his foot propped up on a chair and a walker in the doorway, trainer Vladimir Cerin was not going very far from his stable office on Friday morning at Hollywood Park. This was not a bad thing.

Nearly two weeks after undergoing knee replacement surgery, Cerin was having his first full morning back on the job and was happy to be there. He had been away longer than expected because of complications from surgery.

"I was in the hospital for nine days," he said. "It should have been four."

Cerin said he had missed the activity of the stable, and judging from its results of the last month, it is easy to see why.

Through Thursday, Cerin was second in the Hollywood Park standings with five victories, two of which had come in stakes - Willow O Wisp in the Inglewood Handicap on April 29 and Bettarun Fast in the Railbird Stakes on May 6.

Willow O Wisp is scheduled to return in the $300,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on turf on May 29, a competitive race that is expected to include Aragorn, Charmo, Chinese Dragon, Diamond Green, Silent Name, and Terroplane.

To some extent, Willow O Wisp has an advantage: He is the only one of those probable starters with a win over Hollywood Park's newly renovated turf course.

Owned by Robert Alexander, Willow O Wisp, 4, has won four stakes in the last year, including the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last September. After poor performances in the Hong Kong Cup in December and the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park in January, Willow O Wisp finished seventh in the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 4. He was beaten 1 1/2 lengths after leading to midstretch, a performance that left Cerin encouraged.

Willow O Wisp then led throughout the Grade 3 Inglewood at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

"He's come around quite a bit," Cerin said. "He showed signs of life after the Kilroe. It wasn't that bad of a race, and he wasn't beaten that far. He's put on quite a bit of weight since the Kilroe."

Willow O Wisp may need to get the jump on his rivals in the Shoemaker, which will also include the exciting Silent Name. Trained by Gary Mandella, Silent Name is unbeaten in two starts in California, including the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita on April 8.

The Shoemaker Mile is one of two Grade 1 races on May 29, a program that includes the $300,000 Gamely Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles. Sharp Lisa, the winner of the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita on April 22, is expected to face Argentina, Dalicia, Heavenly Ransom, Memorette, and Tanta Suerte. Others being considered are Film Maker, Lock and Key, Naissance Royale, and Ticker Tape.

One couple, two stables, two winners

There are his-and-hers towels, golf clubs, and bathrooms. Trainers Mike and Patricia Harrington did one better at Hollywood Park on Thursday: They had his-and-hers maiden winners.

Mike Harrington scored first, winning a maiden special weight with Swiss Swiffer in the fourth race. In the final race, Eliberator won a maiden claimer for Patricia Harrington. Both 2-year-olds are by Swiss Yodeler and were making their first starts.

According to Mike Harrington, the day was overdue and justified a celebratory dinner at a local steakhouse. Going into Thursday's program, his 40-horse stable had just three winners at the meeting, fewer than he expected. Patricia Harrington's 10-horse stable was winless with four starters.

Many of their stables' 2-year-olds are by Swiss Yodeler, a California-based stallion that Mike Harrington trained in the mid-1990's. In past years, many of the Harrington 2-year-old winners each spring were by Swiss Yodeler. This year's group had not been as successful - until Thursday.

"Swiss Yodeler had the best mares bred to him for this crop that he's ever bred, and I've been disappointed," Mike Harrington said.

"I was losing my confidence. Normally, I run the best ones first, but this year that hasn't happened."

Harrington said Thursday's winners were delayed in making their first starts because they were May foals that needed to reach the second anniversary of their foaling date before they were eligible to run.

Eliberator was the more flashy winner, scoring by 4 1/2 lengths and earning Mike Harrington's respect despite doing it in a maiden claimer.

"He was more impressive than mine," he said. "It was a different level, but he looked impressive."

* El Roblar, the winner of a division of the Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar last summer, is sidelined until winter after recently undergoing surgery to have a bone chip removed from a hock, trainer Richard Mandella said. Owned by Jess Jackson, El Roblar, 4, finished fourth in the Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita on April 1 in his last start.