09/15/2010 2:27PM

McCanna closes in on his win record

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AUBURN, Wash. – September is Tim McCanna’s time of year. The low-key trainer has all but secured his 10th championship in Emerald Downs’ 15-year history, and with seven racing days remaining, is closing in on a new record for victories in a single season.

After a slow start to the 90-day meeting, McCanna has been rolling, winning with 14 of his 51 starters over the past 11 racing days. He holds a comfortable 62-51 lead over Vann Belvoir and needs five victories to break the single-season record he set in 2008, when he saddled 66 winners.

McCanna will send out two runners Friday evening, both likely to be heavily backed. In the second race, he’ll drop 2-year-old Leerider into a $7,500 maiden claimer following three respectable efforts for $20,000, including a second-place finish July 23. In the third, Fresh Mangold is scheduled to start in a $5,000 maiden claimer after finishing second in a similar race two weeks ago.

In a departure from his normal routine, McCanna, 48, will keep a string of horses at Golden Gate Fields this fall and winter. Trainer Mark Rheinford, McCanna’s former assistant, will oversee the operation, and McCanna, who has a ranch in Yakima, Wash., will commute to the Bay Area as needed. In previous years, McCanna has shut things down after the Emerald meeting and used his winters to break horses and spend time with his wife, Jan, and their three kids.

“I’ll keep maybe 10 to 12 horses down there,” he said. “I’ve got three or four there right now, I’ve got a bunch of 2-year-olds to keep going, and I’ll be sending some horses down when I get ’em fit. I’ll go down on the first and the 15th to write the checks.”

McCanna lost one top runner Tuesday when Jersey Town, second behind Noosa Beach in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile, shipped out to New York, where he’ll be trained by Barclay Tagg and be pointed to the Grade 2 Kelso Breeders’ Cup on Oct. 3 at Belmont Park. McCanna’s top 3-year-old, Emerald Derby winner Saratoga Boot, is scheduled to start next in the $150,000 British Columbia Derby on Sept. 26 at Hastings.

“It’s been a good year,” McCanna said. “We wish we could have won the Mile, a few others, but everybody hung tough, nobody panicked. It was a little nerve-wracking early, but the horses stayed healthy for the most part, and most of ’em are still going.”