12/10/2007 1:00AM

Julian Canet: Hands-on horseman shifts to N.Y.

EmailJulian Canet is in a New York state of mind. After spending the past few winters in south Florida, the 51-year-old trainer has decided to brave the winter weather in the Northeast, and recently bedded down a string of just more than two dozen horses on the backstretch at Belmont Park.

"I always wanted to be at Belmont," said Canet, who raced at Monmouth this summer and is coming off a solid meet at the Meadowlands that produced a record of 6-7-3 from 21 starters. "I have the horses for it, so I figured I'd give it a try. The money is good in New York, and I plan on staying. I haven't been home to Florida in seven months."

Canet may be unfamiliar to New York horseplayers, but he is not some naive tourist who will be overmatched by local mainstays such as Gary Contessa, Bruce Levine, and the Brothers Dutrow.

Canet (whose father also trained horses) struck out on his own in 1975, after working as an assistant to Frank "Pancho" Martin for two years - during that Hall of Fame trainer's heyday. Based on such an apprenticeship, it's not surprising Canet is a hands-on trainer who isn't afraid to get down and dirty in the stalls.

"When I claim horses I go through them pretty thoroughly," said Canet, whose Trainer Form stats as of early December reveal a 9-for-27 mark first off the claim and a 17-for-67 record with new acquisitions overall. "I go through their blood counts, take their shoes off and readjust them, and generally do a lot of work on their feet - a lot of soaking and packing. Frank was the best there ever was at that."

At this writing, Canet was prepping three-time Sovereign Award winner Judiths Wild Rush for an upcoming money allowance, but the "now" horse in the barn may be Hurrah, a 4-year-old gelding by Pulpit out of Wild Applause, claimed for $20,000 at Belmont in July. Hurrah won himself out by winning a first-level allowance two starts later and came within a nose of winning a second-level allowance at 22-1 in his first start on Aqueduct's inner-dirt track, while recording a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 101.

"I usually put them in the right spot," offered Canet, who had a 23 percent win rate (36 for 157) nearing the finish line of 2007. "People thought I was crazy to run Hurrah in there, but I told everybody, 'This is a monster. He's bred out of this world.'"

Some of Canet's stats are other-worldly as well. In addition to his performance with newly-acquired stock, he has profitable ROI numbers in 18 other categories. Notable strengths for this under-the-radar trainer include: second-time starters and horses making their second start back from layoffs over 180 days (38 percent wins in each case); 31-60 day layoffs (31 percent); and stretch-outs (28 percent).

Perhaps the most impressive Canet stat, however, is a 24 percent win rate and $2.15 ROI covering all of his dirt starters in 2006-07. With turf racing in hibernation until next spring, Canet looks to be in the right place at the right time.