05/23/2003 12:00AM

Sell this veteran short at your own peril

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PHOENIX - He is too old. He has had just one race in the past year. And he's facing some tough youngsters who are lying in wait to get him.

It may sound bad for 8-year-old Ladies Din in Monday's Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park, but he's got a better chance than you might think of successfully defending his crown in the race.

When he won last year, Julio Canani, his trainer at the time, was pointing him for the Breeders' Cup Mile. Since Canani had already won the BC Mile with Silic and Val Royal, he knew what it would take to win that race. But Ladies Din didn't race again last year after his Shoemaker win.

"Ladies Din had some problems and Julio turned him out," said his current trainer, Frank Monteleone.

Owners Bernie Schiappa and Terry Lanni turned Ladies Din over to Monteleone in January. Ladies Din made his first start for Monteleone April 26 in the Grade 2 San Francisco Breeders' Cup Handicap at Bay Meadows, and finished fourth on a yielding course.

"It was a deep, yielding course, the kind he does not like, and the only reason I left him in was that he needed the race," said Monteleone. "The Shoemaker has been our goal all along. If the real Ladies Din shows up and runs like last year, he should be tough."

Ladies Din's comeback race should help him from a fitness standpoint.

Ladies Din worked five furlongs in 58.10 Tuesday under Patrick Valenzuela.

"He's ready to roll," Monteleone said Wednesday. "He worked with one of my other horses. He won't work without competition. On the turn, he went by the other horse under a stranglehold."

Ladies Din has won 12 of 36 starts and earned $1,966,754. He finished second in the Shoemaker in both 1999 and 2000.

On Monday, Ladies Din faces such tough customers as Redattore, Special Ring, Touch of the Blues, Medecis, Century City, and War Zone.

Canani, who has won the race three of the past four years, with Ladies Din and Silic (in 1999 and 2000), trains Special Ring, who has recorded a series of bullet works at Hollywood.

Where favoritism could fall is anyone's guess. The board might look something like this: Redattore, 5-2; War Zone, 7-2; Ladies Din, 9-2; Special Ring, 5-1; Touch of the Blues, Medecis, Century City, Tijiyr, and Nicobar, all 8-1 or higher.

Should Ladies Din be in the vicinity of 9-2, that's where I'll make my stand. I'll key him over Medecis (a world-class miler in Europe), Century City (back to a West Coast track he likes), War Zone (a Bobby Frankel up-and-comer), and Nicobar (headed the right way for Ron McAnally).

Gamely: Five good ones

If you think the field for the Shoemaker Mile is tough, wait until you see the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap, to be run Monday at 1 1/8 miles on the Hollywood turf. Five top-class turf females will run in the Gamely. Save for Ipi Tombe, Golden Apples, and Voodoo Dancer, the best of the division is here.

Dress to Thrill, trained by Christophe Clement, makes her long-anticipated 4-year-old debut. In her last start, six months ago, she won the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood over such monsters as Golden Apples, Banks Hill, and Starine.

She may well win, but considering it's just start No. 1 of the year, and since Clement has said he is pointing her to the Beverly D. and the BC Filly and Mare Turf, this is just a starting point.

The board in the Gamely may look something like this: Dublino, 2-1; Dress to Thrill, 5-2; Tates Creek, 3-1; Megahertz, 4-1; and Miss Terrible, 5-1.

Dublino looked smashing winning the Wilshire last month, but do you want 2-1 in a toughie like this? Tates Creek is a machine, but she hasn't run since winter. Miss Terrible comes with a gaudy reputation from Argentina, but she hasn't run in a long time and has never run in the United States.

Which brings us to Megahertz. Tates Creek beat her at Santa Anita this winter but had every advantage that day. Now Megahertz has grown up some more, and looked dazzling winning the Grade 2 Santa Barbara at Santa Anita last time. Remember, too, Megahertz is likely more comfortable on this turf course

I'll key Megahertz over Dress to Thrill and Dublino, hoping Tates Creek and Miss Terrible need this one before showing their best.