08/22/2002 12:00AM

Gann's willing to spend whatever it takes

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Edmund Gann and his wife, Bernice, have not seen much of their home in the posh Southern California community of Rancho Santa Fe this summer.

"Every weekend, for the past month we've been at Saratoga," Edmund Gann said in the Saratoga paddock Wednesday. "We've put on 7,000 [frequent flyer] miles every weekend. We decided to rent a house, we brought our maid and our family dog."

The Ganns' Saratoga summer has been well worth the trip and expense. They have won three graded stakes at this meet - the Grade 1 Test with You, the Grade 2 Jim Dandy with Medaglia d'Oro, and the Grade 3 Lake George with Nunatall. Their other two runners at this meet were Denon, who was beaten a head in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational and You, who finished third in the Grade 1 Alabama.

"I think we're running in a little bit of luck,'' Gann said in the understatement of the meet.

Gann, whose earnings total $701,500 here this summer, hope that luck continues Saturday when Medaglia d'Oro runs in the

$1 million Travers and Labamta Babe returns from a seven-month layoff in the Grade 1 King's Bishop.

Medaglia d'Oro, Labamta Babe, You, Denon, and Nunatall are five of what Gann estimates to be "eight to 10" stakes winners he and his wife now have with trainer Bobby Frankel. It is the deepest stable Gann has had with Frankel since the two began working together more than 25 years ago.

According to Gann, his relationship with Frankel dates back to the mid-1970's when Frankel claimed a filly from him for $12,500, won a few races with her, bred her to Cannonade, and sold her for $128,000.

"I said that's the kind of trainer I'd like to have," Gann said.

At the time, Gann had a stable of 10 to 15 claimers. Frankel came over and weeded most of them out. In attempting to upgrade the quality of their stock, the Ganns had Frankel investigate bringing European-based turf horses to the United States.

Among the top imports were Pay the Butler, who won the 1988 Japan Cup, and Al Mamoon, who won the John Henry and Eddie Read handicaps and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Other European imports included stakes winners Roi Normand, Double Wedge, Louis Cyphre, Top Shape, and Gravieres.

"The first horse I bought him was half [interest] of a horse called Johnny's Image," Frankel recalled. "He won four stakes in a row."

Frankel and Gann have a terrific business relationship. According to Frankel, Gann does not limit the amount of money he can spend to buy a horse.

"No budget, none," Frankel said. "He's never turned me down and I don't ask him before I buy them. I buy the horses, then tell them."

Last year, Frankel bought You and Labamta Babe for Gann. In her first start for Gann, You won the Grade 2 Adirondack, and has now won five Grade 1 races. It took Labamta Babe three starts to win for Gann, taking the Grade 2 Santa Catalina in January and establishing him as a Kentucky Derby candidate.

But, two weeks later, Labamta Babe was injured, and off the Triple Crown trail. Less than a month later, Frankel purchased Medaglia d'Oro from David Vance.

"I knew about him before he broke his maiden,'' Frankel said. "They told me to watch him run and see if you want him. We watched him run, got a number on him, and then we bought him."

"He's the best guy to judge if a horse is any good,'' said Gann, who also owned Brooklyn and Metropolitan Handicap winner You and I. "Bloodlines, he's an expert on that. Over the years, we tried homebreds and we didn't do that great at it so we figured we'd go to the sales and buy 2-year-olds and we've been doing quite well with that."

Gann, 78, has been involved in a number of businesses including banking, hardware, wholesale food, real estate development, and oil. He owned a fleet of tuna boats and was part owner of Chicken of the Sea, the company that makes tuna fish and other products.

Now, his business is that of a traveling horse-owner.

"It's fun, but it's a business and we've made money at it and we've done well at it," Gann said.