07/03/2004 12:00AM

Semkin could get first graded win


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Sam Semkin, who trains a small public stable at San Luis Rey Downs in San Diego County, decided to put himself to the test earlier this year.

For several years, Semkin has had a few horses in training but primarily prepared horses for comebacks before sending them to other trainers. While the situation kept Semkin busy, he yearned to learn more of his ability as a trainer.

"It had become the same routine," he said. "I wanted to find out what I'm capable of."

Semkin, 45, began buying horses last fall to build his stable. Monday, he will try for his first graded stakes win when Souvenir Gift starts in the Grade 3, $100,000 Landaluce Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Semkin, easily recognizable for his ever-present cowboy hat, has 24 horses in his stable, 17 of which are being prepared for other trainers. He added two horses to his side of the stable last week at the Barretts horses of racing age sale.

"The last year, I've made a conscious decision to run more horses," he said. "It's started out good. I've never been one to hustle people, so I bought my own horses."

Souvenir Gift was purchased for $25,000 at the Barretts October yearling sale last fall.

Co-owned by Semkin and Gregory Unruh, Souvenir Gift has already given Semkin a milestone. She gave him his first stakes win when she won the Cinderella Stakes on June 6 by 4 1/2 lengths.

"That was what I expected," he said. "Sure, I was impressed, but I wasn't surprised."

Souvenir Gift is unbeaten in two starts, having won a two-furlong race for maidens at Santa Anita in April.

In the Landaluce, Souvenir Gift must beat My Miss Storm Cat, who scored a 10-length win in her career debut on May 29.

Semkin said his filly is ready, particularly after a quick half-mile workout last week.

"She worked Tuesday. She went in 46.60," he said. "I let her run a little through the lane. I don't ask them that much. With her, you've got to have her extend herself or she won't get anything out of it."

Last winter, Semkin considered sending Souvenir Gift to a 2-year-olds in training sale. After that fell through, he began to think it was a blessing when she began serious training.

"She always had an aura around her once I started breaking her and being around her," he said. "At that point, it was how fast and how far. I don't know how fast she is. She won that last race pulling up."

Pleasantly Perfect ready for push

Pleasantly Perfect worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 at Santa Anita on Saturday, leaving trainer Richard Mandella certain that the handicap star is well on his way to a comeback in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 1.

"This is the start of getting in the real work," Mandella said. "He's at a level where I can start pushing him."

Pleasantly Perfect has won his last four starts, a streak that includes the Breeders' Cup Classic last October and the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 27, his most recent outing.

The San Diego Handicap is a prep for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 22. The long-term goal is the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park on Oct. 30.

"It's time to get serious," Mandella said. "He's never looked better. He looks smart."

Owned by Gerald Ford, Pleasantly Perfect has won 8 of 15 starts and $6,699,880.

Night Patrol possible for Gold Cup

Night Patrol was entered for Sunday's American Handicap on turf, but owner Jeff Nielsen and trainer Marcelo Polano were considering withdrawing the 8-year-old gelding in favor of Saturday's $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles.

A winner of 10 of 53 starts and $726,513, Night Patrol won the Sunland Park Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on dirt in his last start on the surface in April 2003. In his lone start this year, he finished fifth behind Soud in a one-mile allowance race on turf here on June 6.

In 2002, Night Patrol pulled a 9-1 upset in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, but did not start in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington Park. At the time, Night Parol was trained by Nick Canani.

The Gold Cup field is expected to include Continental Red, Even the Score, Olmodavor, Total Impact, and Yessirgeneralsir.

Kerlan Handicap canceled

The $75,000 Robert Kerlan Handicap over 5 1/2 furlongs on turf on Monday was canceled because of insufficient entries, racing officials said.

Even though the race drew 20 nominations and included a supplemental stage, there were only three entries as of late Saturday morning.

Because the race is an overnight stakes, and not part of the main stakes program, it will not be offered again before the meeting ends on July 18.

* Jockey Ryan Fogelsonger did not travel to Hollywood Park on Saturday after being shaken up in a spill in the seventh race at Colonial Downs on Friday. Fogelsonger was booked to ride Western Ransom in the American Oaks and Ministers Wild Cat in the Triple Bend Handicap.