06/11/2003 11:00PM

Former rider now training Silver Donn

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Silver Donn, who came within a nose of being honored as the top 3-year-old in the province last year, makes his second start of the year in the $45,000 John Longden Saturday.

After his win in last year's B.C. Stallion Stakes, his fourth victory in a row, Silver Donn looked like a lock for the 3-year-old title. However, he was nosed out by Shacane in the Richmond Derby Trial, and although Silver Donn finished in front of Shacane in the B.C. Derby, Shacane went on to beat older horses in the Premiers and was given the title.

Silver Donn was turned out after the B.C. Derby, and when he came back this year, he showed up in the hands of Robert Rohman, who took out his trainer's license this year. Rohman has been galloping horses for close to 30 years and had a trainer's license for a brief period in the early 1980's, but he has basically been an exercise rider for as long as he can remember.

"I had a couple of cheap horses for a while, but it didn't pay much and I could make a lot more money just as an exercise rider," Rohman said. "I'm getting a little older, though, and I figured it's time to give training a real try."

Not many trainers get to start out with a proven stakes horse like Silver Donn, but Rohman has been his exercise rider for the past two years and knows the horse extremely well. Rohman is in charge of 15 horses, and he still gallops most of them himself.

"I think a trainer that gets on his own horses has a big advantage," he said. "They can tell if they're off a bit - not necessarily sore, but maybe just not up to their best - and then they can make adjustments accordingly."

One of the horses Rohman has had to make some adjustments with is Silver Donn. He ran a dull race to finish ninth in the George Royal Stakes May 10, and although he came back with what appears on paper to be a sharp five-furlong move in 59.80 seconds May 26, Rohman wasn't pleased with the work.

"He was really stopping at the end of it, and he galloped out so slow that I knew there had to be something wrong with him," Rohman said.

After conducting blood tests on Silver Donn, Rohman discovered that "his blood was way out of whack," and Silver Donn was put on a regimen of vitamins and given medication that appears to have him back to normal.

"His work the other day was more like it," Rohman said, referring to Silver Donn's bullet five-furlong move in 1:01.40 June 9. "He did it easily and then galloped out real strong. They caught him in 1:14 flat for the six furlongs, and the next day he was playing around and bucking and squealing. The blood tests look good, so I think he's back on his game and he should run well Saturday."

Silva's apprenticeship extended

Apprentice rider Carlos Silva had been scheduled to give up his bug this weekend, and when entries were drawn for Saturday, he was listed as a journeyman rider on the Hastings overnight. However, following a decision by the stewards at the Hipodromo de las Americas in Mexico City, Silva was given an extension of 58 days and will retain his bug until Aug. 10.

"He was injured in a training incident in Mexico and wasn't able to ride for 118 days," said his agent, Geoff Mussellam. "They initially gave him a 60-day extension, but after looking at his medical records, they gave him the extra time."

Silva arrived at Hastings in early May and had his best day at the meet last Sunday, winning three races.