05/30/2007 11:00PM

McCann's Mojave back home

Email

ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Steve Specht said he believes things have to get better for McCann's Mojave.

The 7-year-old McCann's Mojave became a millionaire when he won the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27. Since then, he has finished fourth, beaten only 2 1/4 lengths in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on March 3, and fifth in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap on April 7, the victim of misadventures in both starts.

It's no wonder Specht is happy that McCann's Mojave will only have to walk about 100 yards from his barn to the racetrack for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields. Eight runners were entered in the 1 1/16-mile race, including 2005 winner Desert Boom, and Visa Parade, an Argentine-raced and -bred multiple Group 1 winner who is making his United States debut.

"He's had three pretty long trips for his past three starts," Specht said. "It's kind of nice just to walk over to your home track."

Although he called it "past history" and said "you can't dwell on it," Specht thinks he might have run the best horse in the Santa Anita Handicap, which was won by Lava Man.

"He had a terrible time in the paddock," said Specht. "He got heated up."

Specht also was disappointed that jockey Frank Alvarado didn't sit closer to a slow pace with McCann's Mojave and wound up with no place to run late.

"He had another bad experience going to Oaklawn," Specht said of McCann's Mojave's trip to the Hot Springs, Ark., racetrack. "I had to fly him to Memphis, and on the van ride from there to Hot Springs they put him in a box stall where he stood loose and wasn't tied down.

"When he got off the trailer, he had a three-by-five-inch slab of skin scrapped off his forehead. There was blood all over, and he was wringing wet. We couldn't stitch it because we couldn't use a pain blocker that close to the race, so going into the race he was stressed out."

Although McCann's Mojave had a little setback with a bruised foot three weeks ago, both Specht and Alvarado are pleased with his recent works, particularly a 1:38.20 one-mile drill when he finished the final quarter mile in 24 seconds.

"He'll be ready," Alvarado said.

Specht is equally confident.

"The only horse that gives me concern is Visa Parade, because you don't know what he may be," Specht said. "It's not like I'm afraid, but if anyone is a cause for concern, it's that one."

John Sadler said he has trained Visa Parade to be ready for his U.S. debut. Visa Parade raced against 3-year-olds in Argentina but is considered a 4-year-old in North America.

Visa Parade joined Sadler's barn in January and has worked 13 times since. In his last race he finished third, beaten by a neck, in the 1 1/4-mile Gran Premio Jockey Club at San Isidro last Oct. 14 over a soft turf course.

How high are expectations for Visa Parade? Sadler is flying up from Los Angeles for the race and his Stud Aladino owners are coming from Argentina.

"We're pretty excited," Sadler said from his Hollywood Park barn. "He's trained well. The choices were the Californian or up there. We thought this would be a good race to get started."

Although Visa Parade showed speed in Argentina, Sadler said that with Guiding Hand, McCann's Mojave, and Wanna Runner in the Berkeley, he expects his colt to be a bit off the pace here. Leading jockey Russell Baze will ride him.