07/24/2007 11:00PM

Porto Santo out to get lucky


DEL MAR, Calif. - Porto Santo has earned a unique title in trainer Julio Canani's stable.

"He's the most unlucky horse ever," Canani said.

Porto Santo has found trouble in several starts, but Canani is hopeful that the 4-year-old colt can run without incident in Friday's $85,000 Wickerr Handicap over a mile on turf at Del Mar.

The race is restricted to nonwinners of a stakes worth $50,000 or more to the winner at a mile or longer since May 1, and Porto Santo easily fits that condition, which is not what Canani and the partnership that owns him had in mind at the start of the year.

Porto Santo is winless in four starts this year, including a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf at Santa Anita in March and a second in the Grade 2 Mervyn Leroy Handicap on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park in May.

Last summer at Del Mar, Porto Santo was second in the Oceanside Stakes and Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap, encountering trouble in both races, and fourth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby.

Victor Espinoza, who rode Porto Santo to victory in the restricted Bien Bien Stakes at Hollywood Park last fall, has the mount on Friday.

"Victor worked him the other day and he was very happy," Canani said. "We may surprise everyone on Friday."

Porto Santo will be coupled in the betting with the Canani-trained Quasimodo, who won four consecutive races in early 2006 but has not started since finishing a troubled sixth in the War Chant Stakes at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting last fall.

"I've got to start him somewhere," Canani said of Quasimodo.

The 123-pound topweight and expected favorite in the field of eight is Becrux, the winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in Canada last September. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Becrux was fourth in the Shoemaker Mile and American Handicap at Hollywood Park earlier this year.

The race will be the second start of 2007 for Zann, who placed in two stakes last year. Trained by Mike Machowsky, Zann was third in an allowance race at Hollywood Park in June, his first start since finishing third in the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes at Santa Anita in December.

"After the Sir Beaufort, he got really sick on me," Machowsky said. "He has a 105-degree temperature, and it took me a while to get him right.

"I think I fit. He would probably be better with a little more distance."