04/17/2008 12:00AM

Don't Ya Lovett still fresh at 9


RCADIA, Calif. - What was trainer Jack Carava thinking?

Last month, on behalf of La Canada Stables, Carava claimed the 9-year-old gelding Don't Ya Lovett for $40,000. He was smiling a few minutes later when the New Zealand-bred gelding stormed home to a convincing victory by 3 1/4 lengths.

Carava thinks the claim might have been a steal, one with a quick dividend when Don't Ya Lovett makes his American stakes debut in Saturday's $100,000 San Simeon Handicap at Santa Anita.

"He acts like he's 3," Carava said. "I figured he wasn't over-raced. He was winning races that were unbelievable for a horse running for $40,000. It wasn't like he was 9 and had run 100 races."

Equally as important, Don't Ya Lovett's recent win came over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course, the same distance as the Grade 3 San Simeon, which has drawn a field of 12.

"I like him in this race," Carava said.

Don't Ya Lovett has won 10 of 30 starts. He ran once at 3 in 2002 but did not race again until he was 5, making four starts that year. Don't Ya Lovett was a group stakes winner in New Zealand in 2005.

Since the March 15 win, Don't Ya Lovett has surprised Carava with his training, especially a half-mile breeze in 46.40 seconds, the fastest of 25 recorded works at the distance.

"He worked 46 and change and could have gone in 44 and change if we'd let him run," Carava said. "He seems very professional."

The San Simeon has a strong Southern Hemisphere influence. Giovanni, another New Zealand-bred, will make his U.S. debut. Trainer Mike Puype will start two South American-breds - Carrilero, an Argentine-bred who was second in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December, and El Manuel, a two-time winner on the hillside turf course since early October.

Giovanni will be making his first start since November, and will attempt to end a six-race losing streak. Trainer John Sadler said the 5-year-old gelding can do that.

"I really love the way he's been training," Sadler said. "I expect him to run well first time out."

The domestic team includes Unusual Suspect, the winner of the Grade 3 Hollywood Turf Express; Cheroot, the winner of the Daytona Handicap over the course in February; and the speedy Tenga Cat, the runner-up in the Joe Hernandez Stakes on March 22.

Night Chapter, third in the Hernandez and winless in his last five starts, will be a threat from off the pace.