10/06/2003 12:00AM

Designed for Luck earns trip to Mile

Designed for Luck ($9.80) with Patrick Valenzuela riding wins the $300,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Designed for Luck, a gelding who overcame a career-threatening injury to return to racing this summer, may be peaking at an ideal time.

Sunday, Designed for Luck won the $300,000 at Santa Anita, scoring his most lucrative win and booking a place in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 25.

"It's satisfying to see the horse, who had no right to come back to racing, do this," trainer Vladimir Cerin said. "This was for real."

The victory came against a field that could produce four starters for the BC Mile. Sarafan, Century City and Special Ring, who finished second through fourth, will be considered for the race.

Special Ring, the winner of the Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in July, was the disappointment in the Oak Tree Mile. Sent off at 3-5, he rallied from sixth in early stretch but was beaten 2 1/4 lengths.

"He's never come from that far back in his life," trainer Julio Canani said.

While Canani was frustrated at Special Ring's trip, Cerin was full of praise for jockey Patrick Valenzuela's ride on Designed for Luck.

For the first six furlongs, Valenzuela had Designed for Luck in second, stalking pacesetter Apache Wings through quick fractions of 22.79 and 45.86 seconds.

Designed for Luck took over from Apache Wings in early stretch and was extended to the finish to hold off Sarafan by a half-length. Century City finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Sarafan.

The runner-up finish did not discourage trainer Neil Drysdale.

"The other horse got first run," Drysdale said. "We were catching with every stride."

The final time of 1:32.61 for a mile on turf was the second-fastest in the 18-year history of the race.

Designed for Luck races for David and Holly Wilson and has won 9 of 21 starts and $604,320.

In November 2000, he finished first in the Hollywood Derby but was disqualified and placed fifth. In May 2002, Designed for Luck was taken out of training for more than a year after suffering a hock injury to his left hind leg.

Since his comeback, Designed for Luck has won three races, including the Live the Dream Handicap at Del Mar on Sept. 10.

"He looked good winning this race," David Wilson said in the winner's circle. "I hope it didn't take too much out of him."