06/20/2001 11:00PM

Poliziani - from hockey to horses

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FORT ERIE, Ont. - Although Danny Poliziani has saddled just four winners so far this year, his horses have been running well as usual, and the barn has had a tidy 47 percent of its runners finish in the money heading into Sunday's program at Fort Erie.

Last year the 65-year-old Poliziani ranked eighth in the standings, with 21 wins in 99 starts. "We're always up in the standings, and percentage-wise we do all right," Poliziani said. "We might have done a little better last year but we fell apart a bit towards the end of the season when I wasn't feeling good and had to be operated on. You have to be here and on top of things."

Poliziani has been fighting cancer since he was first diagnosed with the disease a dozen years ago. At the time, Poliziani, a native of Hamilton, Ont., was training successfully in the United States. In 1992, he moved his operation to Fort Erie.

"I've been operated on a few times," he said. "Everything's in remission and I'm starting to feel better. Four years ago I almost gave up training but it takes my mind off of things. I had gone down to five or six horses. Last year I had 20."

There is no thought of retirement. In fact, Poliziani, who has the same number of horses as last year, is hoping to regain some of his former prominence and would like even more runners - if they possess quality. "I've been in racing 42 years. And I had some big, big years. I trained for the best of them - like Mockingbird and Hobeau farms. One year I was 17th in the nation. Another year I was 26th. I trained all over - Finger Lakes, Suffolk, Rockingham, Lincoln Downs, New York.

"In training, age means nothing. It just means more experience," he went on. "Every year you learn. You can learn off of fools. If you keep your mind open, keep alert, you will do well."

Poliziani was a hockey player who spent most of his career in the American Hockey League. He was the number one draft pick of the Boston Bruins, who sent him down to the Cleveland Barons. His last season in hockey was during the 1960-61 season when he was the player-coach of the Los Angeles Kings in the World Hockey Association. The team joined the NHL two years later. Poliziani took over training the seven horses he owned and launched a training career.

The star of Poliziani's barn is 9-year-old gelding Malcoha, a winner of 16 races with lifetime earnings of $292,009. He was Fort Erie's horse of the year in 1998. Malcoha is being prepared for the six-furlong Parnitha Stakes on July 1. He won the race last year. .

o There were 15 nominations for the $50,000-added Parnitha. On the same program, the Center Anne Stakes has drawn 21 names and the $250,000 Bison City Stakes, the second leg of Canada's Triple Tiara, has attracted 15 nominations, including the top five finishers in the first leg, the Labatt Woodbine Oaks.