03/25/2009 11:00PM

Cerin hoping to go the distance again


ARCADIA, Calif. - It has been nearly a week now since Hold Me Back jumped into the Kentucky Derby picture by winning the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. And what's this? Bill Mott still trains him?

Mott has a right to feel a little punchy this year, watching from afar as two of his former runners, Pioneerof the Nile and Life Is Sweet, have swept to major victories at Santa Anita for other stables. As Mott has noted often, though, such things are part of the profession. Get used to it or go drive a bus.

And if it can happen to Mott, whose Hall of Fame credentials continue to shine, it can happen to anyone. Good horses have bounced from barn to barn throughout history, and for all kinds of reasons. Current Hall of Fame candidate Best Pal, owned by John Mabee, was trained by Ian Jory, Gary Jones, and Richard Mandella. The Hall of Fame mare Susan's Girl, owned by Fred Hooper, probably holds the modern record for a champion horse with eight listed trainers over a career of 63 starts. And before Mott got Cigar, he was trained by Alex Hassinger.

Vladmir Cerin can sympathize with all of them. It was just last October that Albertus Maximus gave Cerin the greatest victory of his career in winning the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita Park. Within weeks of the Breeders' Cup, owners Brandon and Marianne Chase sold Albertus Maximus to Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, and Cerin had to put the horse on a plane to the East Coast, where Kiaran McLaughlin took over.

Cerin, who has been busy setting up a second stable at Woodbine this week, will be cheering from the sidelines Saturday when Albertus Maximus goes postward as the favorite in the $6 million Dubai World Cup (airing at 10:30 a.m. PDT).

"Absolutely," Cerin said. "We'll be pulling for the big bay horse, and I hope he wins. We were lucky enough to have him for a few months and we enjoyed it. Now it's somebody else's turn."

His attitude is healthy, especially considering the fact that Albertus Maximus spent the first year and a half of his career with trainer Gary Mandella.

Cerin will occupy the rest of Saturday trying to win the $100,000 Tokyo City Handicap in his own backyard with Kizzy's Chaos, a 4-year-old son of Evansville Slew who has emerged this year as a colt of promise, at least going a distance of ground. He has won three of his last four, including an allowance race at 1 1/4 miles on March 4.

The Tokyo City is 1 1/2 miles and designed as an early indicator for domestic runners interested in the Breeders' Cup Marathon, which has been stretched to a lung-testing 1 3/4 miles for the 2009 running at Santa Anita. This would be a classic example of moving the goalposts, but in the right direction, and with plenty of warning.

(The Tokyo City also is the centerpiece of Santa Anita's culturally rich Japan Family Day, which means the L.A. Matsuri Taiko and master drummer Etsuo Hongo will be back, a very good thing.)

As an indicator of success in the first running of the BC Marathon, the 2008 Tokyo City was key. The second- and third-place finishers, Church Service and Big Booster, repeated that form seven months later to finish second and third in the Marathon to Muhannak.

Big Booster is back Saturday for Mike Mitchell, in his first race since the Breeders' Cup, along with Zappa, the beaten favorite in last year's Tokyo City. Cerin, being able to read the Form, knows his colt will be tested, especially with Zappa in the mix. Both horses like to gallop along on the lead.

"I know my horse can get the distance," Cerin said. "I'm just afraid the other horse will soften him up."

If nothing else, Cerin gets along well with the family. Kizzy's Chaos is a half-brother to his stakes winners Willow O Wisp and Will O Way, all of them bred by Fred Pace in Florida and owned by longtime Cerin client Robert Alexander. Willow O Wisp won the 2005 Del Mar Derby, while Will O Way took this year's California Oaks, both races on turf.

"The way he's bred, I was very disappointed Kizzy's Chaos wouldn't take to the grass," Cerin said, referring to the colt's only two bad races in eight starts. "We tried him on the dirt" - actually the Del Mar Polytrack - "and he ran really well. If you like synthetics, you're supposed to like the grass. But that doesn't seem true in his case, and I have no idea why.

"What we saw, though, as he was going a mile, a mile and a sixteenth, that when the race was over he was still eager to run," Cerin added. "We were hoping a mile and a quarter or more would do the trick."

So far, so good. But beyond a handful of events scattered through the calendar, there is not much call for a 12-furlong main-track horse on the California circuit. Does Cerin at least hold the hope that Kizzy's Chaos might give the stable another shot at a Breeders' Cup event?

"There's a lot of golf to play between now and then," Cerin said. "We'll see what happens this weekend. I just wish Zappa wasn't in there. It would be a lot more fun."