07/18/2007 12:00AM

Designed for Luck back again at age 10

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Designed for Luck was never supposed to get this far, racing at the age of 10 in an $80,000 optional claimer at Del Mar on Friday.

Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Designed for Luck is running for the first time since finishing second in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile in October 2005. This is his third comeback. He suffered a hock injury in 2002, a suspensory injury in 2004, and an injury to a hind leg in December 2005.

"Three times he was retired," trainer Vladimir Cerin said.

Cerin does not know what to expect from Designed for Luck, owned by David and Holly Wilson. The horse is well-known for winning the Oak Tree BC Mile in 2003 and the Grade 1 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile in 2004.

"I've never run a 10-year-old horse, so I don't know how they're supposed to feel," he said.

Cerin said that Designed for Luck "is so much happier when he's at the track."

"We schooled him a few days ago and he didn't wash out for the first time in his life," he said. "Maybe he's settling down."

Realistically, Cerin does not expect much from Designed for Luck in Friday's race, which is run at 1 1/16 miles on turf. He meets a field that includes Lightning Hit, who won a division of the 2006 Oceanside Stakes here, and Fire Wood, who is returning from nearly a yearlong layoff for the red-hot Ron Ellis stable.

"I haven't really pushed him that hard," Cerin said. "I've not sure if his works have been hard enough to win. The satisfaction has been to be part of this horse's life. I often think he's smarter than I am."

Geldings that have won 10 of 27 starts and $965,500 do not have many racing options, which is why Cerin is starting Designed for Luck in an optional claimer for $80,000. Conversely, there is a limited demand for 10-year-old geldings with more physical ailments than a veteran linebacker, even in claiming-mad Southern California.

Still, Cerin admits he will be hold his breath until he knows that no one has claimed Designed for Luck.

"An $80,000 claimer would be a stakes horse in many parts of the country," he said. "If he can't do for 80, then we're probably done. We won't run for less than $80,000. He's done enough.

"If he doesn't make it, I'll take him home."

Nossa Cancao injured in training

Nossa Cancao, the runner-up in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita earlier this year, suffered suspensory injuries to her left foreleg while exercising at Del Mar on Wednesday morning.

Trainer A.C. Avila said X-rays would be taken on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury. He was optimistic that the 7-year-old mare could be saved and be bred.

In the more immediate future, Avila was concerned about Nossa Cancao having satisfactory circulation in the leg.

"If we still have circulation, we can save her," he said. "To keep the horse happy, that is my goal."

Nossa Cancao has won 10 of 48 starts and $247,201. She began her career in Brazil, where she won seven races but did not win a stakes. Imported to the United States in early 2005, she won three races in this country and placed in three stakes, including the Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park in May.

Nossa Cancao's injury is believed to be the first severe injury suffered by a horse since training began on Del Mar's new Polytrack last week.

Awesome Gem rested and ready

A spring break has seemingly left Awesome Gem in better form for two key races at Del Mar.

After Awesome Gem finished eighth in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 3, trainer Craig Dollase gave him a rest of nearly three months. In two starts since returning, Awesome Gem has finished second and first in allowance races at Hollywood Park.

"He seems to be coming into his own in the right way," Dollase said.

Owned by the West Point Thoroughbred partnership, Awesome Gem will be tested in Saturday's $300,000 San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. The race is a prep to the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, another race on Awesome Gem's agenda.

"The objective was to run though the conditions and get him ready for the two races down here," Dollase said. "He's kept his weight and looks healthy."

Dollase will get a good indication of Awesome Gem's ability in the San Diego. The race has drawn a field of nine, including Buzzards Bay, the winner of the Grade 2 Californian Stakes in June, and Arson Squad, winner of the Strub Stakes in February. Buzzards Bay and Arson Squad share top weight of 120 pounds, three more than Awesome Gem.

Fast and Furious feeling better

Since arriving from France three years ago, Fast and Furious has been a fixture in major stakes at Del Mar. He was fifth in the 2004 Del Mar Derby, fifth in the 2005 Eddie Read, and seventh in the 2006 Eddie Read.

Through all that time, he battled a quarter crack that hindered his training, according to trainer Ron McAnally.

This year, thanks in part to kinder surfaces in California, that is no longer a major issue, McAnally said.

The trainer said Fast and Furious is "just gliding along" on the Del Mar Polytrack, much the way he trained earlier this year.

"His foot is doing much better since we had him on the training track at Santa Anita and the Cushion Track at Hollywood," McAnally said.

Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Fast and Furious, 6, is entered in Sunday's $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf. The race is led by After Market, the winner of the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park in June.

While beating After Market will be difficult, McAnally was pleased with the third-place finish by Fast and Furious in the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park June 30.

Asked where Fast and Furious can finish on Sunday, McAnally had a quick answer. "First," he said.