09/30/2005 12:00AM

Milburn makes a case for Saanichton


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Lawyer Dave Milburn has won a lot of big cases in his career. He's also a trainer, and while he's been fairly successful, he has never won a major race. He's hoping that will change when he runs Saanichton in the $100,000 Jack Diamond Futurity on Sunday.

"It's pretty simple," said Milburn. "The reason I've had more success in law is because I'm a lot better lawyer than I am a trainer."

Milburn considers So Many Slews the best horse he has trained in his career. He owns her in partnership with a fellow lawyer, Donald Muldoon. When So Many Slews retired, they decided to keep her as a broodmare. She's the dam of Saanichton.

"Until now she really hasn't produced the kind of horse we were hoping for," said Milburn. "Saanichton is easily the best one so far."

Saanichton is a legitimate contender in what appears to be a wide-open Futurity. There is plenty of speed in the field, and the race could set up nicely for Saanichton, who has a good late move.

"I think we should be about third or fourth choice," said Milburn. "But he tries every time, and maybe we'll get lucky. Actually, we're fortunate that a couple of the better 2-year-olds here aren't eligible."

Milburn was referring to Regal Request and CTHS Sales Stakes winner Feu Express, whose connections both missed eligibility payments. Saanichton finished second to Regal Request in a $50,000 optional race Sept. 16.

Since adding Lasix, Saanichton has been right there in his last four starts, including a fourth-place finish in the New Westminster Stakes, where he was beaten by only 1 3/4 lengths.

"He's coming up to the race in great shape, and if he gets a good trip he could get a big piece of it," said Milburn.

It's been raining buckets in Vancouver this week, and there's a strong possibility that the track could be off on Sunday.

"His exercise rider, Lisa Balson, thinks he'll love an off track," said Milburn. "She said he just skips over it when it's wet."

Along with Balson, Milburn has a very strong supporting cast in his shed row.

"Saanichton's groom, Art Knowles, used to train horses, and I have a couple of other trainers working for me," said Milburn. "It allows me flexibility if I have a lot of cases that need focusing on."

Milburn could probably be a lot more successful as a trainer if he treated it differently.

"I'm certainly aware that it is a business, but when you're dealing with flesh and blood you can't just look at from a business point of view," he said.

Because of Milburn's love for his horses, he has a tendency to spot his horses too high. His crew put their feet down earlier in the meet and told him he couldn't enter his horses any more. He does have veto power, though.

"They think I treat it too much like a sport rather than a business," he said. "I guess I could do better with a different approach, but I'm not complaining, and it's working out fine so far."

Milburn thinks that Lukin Awesome is the horse to beat in the Futurity. And Lukin Awesome is one tough horse: He overcame a bear attack when he was five months old.

Trainer Richard Yates, Milburn's assistant, summed up the feelings of Milburn's crew.

"There are a lot of people back here that wish the bear had been a little quicker," he joked.

Lukin Awesome is clearly the horse to beat in the Futurity. He showed great determination in holding off Regal Request to win the New Westminster Stakes by a nose Aug. 28 and has had three solid works since.

According to his trainer, Terry Clyde, Lukin Awesome is coming up to the race in excellent shape, but he could be a lot better horse if he would just keep his mind on business.

"Hopefully one day he'll actually level off and just run," she said. "He still runs with his head cocked and he wants to look at everything. When he's galloping he's more interested in trying to buck off the exercise rider than anything else."

Although Clyde is concerned about Lukin Awesome's attitude, she was pleased with his final five-furlong work in 1:02.20 last Sunday.

"It was a very good work," she said. "He came home very strong, so he should be ready to run a good race. I just hope he pays attention."

Like Milburn, Clyde isn't concerned about what the track condition will be.

"He broke his maiden going 3 1/2 furlongs in the slop, so he should be all right if it comes up wet," she said.