11/27/2001 1:00AM

No Comprende puts Jim Smith on the map


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Few horses improved at this Woodbine meeting as much as No Comprende.

No Comprende, a 3-year-old gelding who has won three of 10 starts and $134,300 this year, also has raised the profile of his trainer, 35-year-old Jim Smith.

Although he has been training only since 1999, Smith's racing background dates back to the mid-1970's, when he began attending the races at Fort Erie with his parents.

"I was following racing for as long as I can remember," said Smith, who was born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and holds dual citizenship.

Smith was in high school when he began his racetrack education at age 17, going to work as a hotwalker on weekends and holidays at Fort Erie for trainer Frank Merrill. He continued to work part-time for Merrill for the next three years, while attending Cazenovia College near Syracuse, N.Y., where he obtained a degree in large animal science.

Then it was back to the track, where Smith spent three years with trainer Gord Huntley. After that he worked for Glenn Magnusson until 1998. He continued to work mornings on the backstretch after that, and spent the afternoons assisting veterinarians Darryl Bonder and Peter Vatcher at their nearby clinic.

"It was an education, working for those guys," he said. "But I'd always wanted to train horses."

So Smith, backed by client Tom Kovacevic, set up shop here in 1999 with four horses, and sent out one winner from 20 starters at the meeting.

Business improved last year as Smith trained a half-dozen horses and recorded six wins from 29 starts. Among his horses was Speedy Comet, who finished second in the Vandal Stakes.

And in 2001, with No Comprende leading the way, the trainer had fashioned a 9-for-50 mark here heading into the final week of racing.

No Comprende is a Virginia-bred son of Compadre, a stallion who was purchased by Gerry Grguric and now stands in Ontario. Grguric also acquired a couple of Compadre weanlings, hoping they would help him market the stallion.

No Comprende, purchased privately by Dennis Brown and Clint Abraham, certainly has held up his end of the program after sitting out his 2-year-old season.

"He was very big, and very immature," said Smith. "I really didn't put too much pressure on him last year.

"When I brought him in this spring, he started to show he could run a little bit. But his stifles were bothering him; he was still immature for his size."

No Comprende picked up checks in his first four outings, including a second-place finish over 1 1/16 miles of turf here June 9, but then finished ninth in his next race two weeks later.

"He displaced his palate," said Smith, adding that No Comprende underwent corrective surgery and was off for two months. "That basically gave his stifles time to mature, as well. When he came back, he was training super."

No Comprende won his maiden by seven lengths at 1 1/16 miles in his first start off the layoff and also won his next three races, although he was disqualified from the first of those victories.

Although No Comprende finished third behind the stakes-placed On the Game and Silver Axe in his last start, Smith was pleased with the race.

Smith is hoping that effort will set up No Comprende for his next start, the $75,000 Walter Haight Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward at Laurel Dec. 15. After that race he will have the winter off.

"He had a busy fall, but he's doing so good right now," said Smith. "He's training like a champion. He likes to train; he feels good."

It's Known Tender's time of year

Known Tender seeks his third straight victory in Thursday's headliner, a seven-furlong race for $80,000 optional claimers.

Known Tender has won three of his last four outings, with all of those wins coming at seven furlongs. He won a $32,000 claiming sprint for non-winners of three July 29, but finished up the track when trainer Vito Armata tried him around two turns a month later.

Known Tender got back on track with an explosive 5 1/4-length score in a Sept. 30 preliminary allowance, in which he earned a 92 Beyer Figure. He rallied three wide over a track favoring outside closers in a $62,500 optional race Oct. 28, and prevailed by two lengths in good time.

Known Tender got hot last fall, and stayed that way until the end of the meet. He thrives with a month between his races, and his versatile running style makes him especially dangerous.

Completing the sixth-race lineup are Jaguarmeanspassion, Ice Water, Manning Avenue, Estonia, and Mark My Dreams.

Jaguarmeanspassion, the lone 3-year-old in the field, has been second in each of his last four outings for trainer Abraham Katryan, who claimed him for $80,000 in August. He finished just a length behind stakes winner Sam Lord's Castle last time at this level.

Bristol Pistol's farewell?

Bristol Pistol, a 5-year-old who has been a steady performer in the elite filly-mare turf ranks here, is slated to run the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap at Calder Dec. 8. The $100,000 My Charmer is a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Owned by the Augustin Stable of George Strawbridge, Bristol Pistol has won eight races and finished in the money 20 times from 28 starts. She has earned $535,419.

The My Charmer could be the last start for Bristol Pristol, who will be bred in Kentucky next year.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink