07/30/2007 12:00AM

In just about every statistical category, he posts good numbersP


The path for most trainers is well known - grow up connected to racing, grow up around the stables and racing environment, and simply follow the logical line.

Vladimir Cerin took a different journey, but that doesn't mean he hasn't found the same degree of success - or isn't nearly as attractive to those wagering on Southern California races - as his more traditional cohorts.

Cerin, 52, was born in Yugoslavia and did have some connection with horses as his father directed a large farm that included horses. Cerin moved to Canada at age 14. He attended UCLA, where he earned a graduate degree in kinesiology, the study of movement and a discipline very much geared toward the athlete. In fact, Cerin worked with professional athletes such as top female tennis player Tracy Austin, and basketball stars Bill Walton, Kiki Vandeweghe, and Jamaal Wilkes. In 1976, Cerin purchased a home with several professional athletes, and that's when he met trainer Rafael Martinez. Cerin, under Martinez's guidance, meshed his two worlds - that of the equine from his earlier days and that of the athlete from his more recent work.

Cerin took out his trainer's license in 1981 and has become a fixture on the Southern California circuit. His eye for the athlete has been key in establishing him among the elite in the claim game, and he comes off a strong Hollywood Park meet where he tied for seventh in the trainer standings with 14 wins from 59 starters.

To give you an idea about his claiming prowess one need only look back to Early Pioneer, whom he claimed for $62,500 in 1998. By the time Early Pioneer got done he had won the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup (at 24-1), along with four other graded stakes. Musical Gambler was taken by Cerin for $62,500 in 1997. He won 6 of his next 7, including consecutive runnings of Oak Tree's Skywalker Handicap, and finished second to top-class Puerto Madero in the Grade 2 Native Diver at Hollywood Park. Designed for Luck, still running at age 10 after numerous comebacks from injuries, was originally claimed for $62,500 by Cerin out of his second career start as a 2-year-old. Designed for Luck won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at 54-1, only to be disqualified, but his subsequent success took some of the sting off that - he has since won the Grade 3 Ascot at Bay Meadows, Live the Dream at Del Mar, Grade 2 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, and the Grade 1 Shoemaker BC Mile at Hollywood.

One of the most remarkable aspects to Cerin is his consistency all over the board. The attached statistics list 40 categories. In the 34 categories where Cerin has had 10 or more starters he has double-digit win percentages in 32.

He's 15 percent first time off a claim. He also shows his eye for when to make a change - he's 36 percent when adding blinkers for the first time. He's 36 percent going from two sprints to a route. And when they get on the right track they tend to stay there - he's 31 percent off a win.

It has been a most difficult year personally for Cerin. Back on Feb. 1, during a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Cerin's wife, Kellie, died of an apparent heart attack at 51. They had been married May 19, 1989, just weeks after Cerin saddled his first stakes winner. He has plunged into his work as a source of therapy and it's a credit to his work ethic and perseverance that he continues to post such strong numbers.