03/15/2006 12:00AM

Gann wins on first mount of latest return

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It was a long time coming, but Sandi Gann has made it back - again.

After spending 14 months recuperating from a fractured left thighbone, Gann, the only female jockey ever to win the local riding title, won with her first mount back Tuesday at Turf Paradise.

Gann won on Day Later ($9.60) in her first race since getting hurt in an accident here Jan. 15, 2005. Gann had just ridden the favorite, Sky Hoof Hearted, to victory in the ninth race and was waiting to enter the winner's circle when the horse became startled and threw her off. Gann was not stepped on, but said she felt her leg break when she hit the ground.

"It took a while this time for me to heal," said Gann, 44. "Winning today, of course, helps."

Gann won the local riding title in 1993, but suffered a near-career-ending injury in a spill at Golden Gate that same year. She stayed away from riding for two years, though she never officially retired from racing. Then in 1997, Gann sustained another serious injury at Lone Star Park, which required a year's recovery time.

Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park opened its 90-day meet Tuesday afternoon under conditions far better than on opening day last year. Fairmount began its 2005 meet on a chilly, wet Friday evening, and, given that the opener was moved up 11 days this year, things could have been much worse weatherwise. Fans in attendance Tuesday, however, enjoyed the races under clear skies with the temperature well into the 40's.

On the track, things were not so different from last year. Trainer Ralph Martinez, dominant at Fairmount the last several years, won four of the 10 races. Three of the four winners were ridden by Emmanuel Cosme, who now becomes the early favorite to win his first Fairmount riding title.

Three allowance races highlight Friday's program, the first evening card of the meet. The featured 10th race, the $9,600 Quick Step for 4-year-olds and up at two furlongs, has attracted True Monarch, a winner three times in five attempts at the distance, including the Inaugural Dash on Fairmount's 2005 opening-day card. True Monarch will be looking for redemption after being disqualified from second in a similar spot in his final start of 2005. Temptation Eyes, who was placed ahead of True Monarch that day, also makes his seasonal debut in the Quick Step.

- Vance Hanson

Fonner Park

Rider Dan Beck will be out for the remainder of the Fonner Park season and possibly much longer after being injured in a strange spill at the start of last Sunday's eighth race.

Beck was aboard Shy Annie, who stumbled and failed to get her front legs back under herself at the start. The horse went back down and flung Beck to the track before finally righting herself and then running around the track riderless. Beck emerged with a broken collarbone, one of several he has endured during his career, plus a broken bone in his neck that will require surgery. Luckily for Beck, the injury does not involve the spinal cord.

He was treated at St. Francis Hospital in Grand Island, Neb., and released. He was wearing a brace Monday to stabilize the injury.

It was Beck's first weekend back riding after a pair of spills in the opening two weekends of the season had sidelined him with soreness. Beck has just over 1,600 career wins and was coming off a very successful 2005, when he rode mostly injury-free to collect 76 wins from 527 mounts.

* Larren Delorme, second in the rider standings, completes his three-day suspension on Friday after sitting out last Saturday and Sunday. Delorme received the ban for causing interference into the turn of a four-furlong race on March 4. Delorme was allowed to ride in Saturday's Ogataul Stakes, where he finished seventh aboard Uncle Beno. The Ogataul, as with all stakes races at the meet, is a designated race in which suspended riders are allowed to compete.

* The victory by R.D. Williams aboard High Fleet in the Ogataul was part of a four-win day to launch him solidly to the top of the rider standings. Williams rode the last three winners of Saturday's 10-race card and owns a 22-15 edge over Delorme in the standings.

- Bill Hodtwalker

Laurel

Jockey Mario Pino, acting upon the advice of his doctor, has reluctantly given up his mount on promising 3-year-old Sweetnorthernsaint.

Pino, 44, will miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a hernia on Wednesday. As a result, Pino, who had been the regular rider of Sweetnorthernsaint, will be replaced by Kent Desormeaux for Saturday's Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

Trainer Mike Trombetta said a number of riders were interested in riding Sweetnorthernsaint, a Kentucky Derby prospect who most recently scored a 10-length victory in the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel. Trombetta said he chose Desormeaux because "he's a Hall of Famer with significant Triple Crown experience."

Pino admitted it was difficult to take time off now for elective surgery.

"I was trying to hold off having it but I had no choice, because my doctor wanted to do it now," said Pino, who rode two winners last Sunday to raise his career total to 5,668. "It doesn't bother me while riding, and the timing isn't the greatest because I am riding some decent horses right now."

Pino, Maryland's all-time leading rider, has ranked in the top five of the Maryland standings every year from 1979 through 2003.

"This sets me back a little in the quest for 6,000, but I have been fortunate injurywise," said Pino, who ranks third in the Laurel Park jockey standings with 33 winners at the winter meet. "I'll come back stronger and keep on going."

Three other Laurel regulars - Dyn Panell (fractured collarbone), Richard Monterrey (separated shoulder), and Walter Cullum (broken neck) - are also sidelined. All are expected back for the Pimlico spring meeting, which begins April 20.

- Joe DeVivo

Sam Houston

Rapid Proof is back. The winner of last year's $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf will make his first start in six months Friday night in the featured eighth race at Sam Houston Race Park.

A 1 1/16-mile allowance on turf, the race will serve as his springboard to this year's Connally, said his trainer, Hal Wiggins. The 1 1/8-mile Connally will be held on April 8, for the first time as a Grade 3.

Rapid Proof has put in a nice series of works at his Oaklawn Park base for his return. He went six furlongs in a bullet 1:15.20 in his final work on March 10. Rapid Proof last raced in September, finishing an even fourth in the $125,000 DeBartolo Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap at Remington Park.

Last year, Rapid Proof was a head winner of the Connally under Brian Hernandez Jr., who has the mount on Friday night. Rapid Proof could get a stalking trip in the allowance behind Gondolieri, who tends to be close and who will break from post 3. Rapid Proof drew gate 6.

Wiggins has won the Connally three times, with his other winner being Chorwon, who won the race in 1998 and 1999.

The chief threats to Rapid Proof on Friday include Gondolieri, A R Crackers, and Seainsky.

Nominations for the Connally close March 29.

- Mary Rampellini

Sunland Park

Warning to Rocky Gulch: Don't look behind you; someone may be gaining.

For a while, Ciento was at the top of the heap. At the time he was injured in August 2004 following a win in the New Mexico Breeders Association Handicap at SunRay Park, he was the richest New Mexico-bred of all time, with earnings of $776,014.

He was gone for 17 months and was passed by Rocky Gulch, who now has a bankroll of $813,608. But Ciento, now 8, resurfaced in an allowance sprint at Sunland on Jan. 28 and rallied from last to end up fifth, beaten four lengths, pushing his career earnings to $776,660.

Ciento returned in Tuesday's featured 11th race at Sunland Park, a 6 1/2-furlong allowance sprint for New Mexico-breds, and showed there's still plenty of gas in the tank. He again lagged back early, but made a nice run to reach contention entering the stretch and battled gamely to the wire to win a four-horse photo by a neck as the 4-5 favorite. Ridden by Ken Tohill, Ciento covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.20. The winner's purse of $21,120 pushed his career bankroll to $797,780.

The effort shows that Ciento is far from washed up, and it may propel him back into stakes ranks in the future.

- Michael Hammersly