Updated on 09/17/2011 11:34AM

Special Ring starts anew in Shoemaker


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - When Special Ring walked off the track after winning the Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar last August, it was easy to think trainer Julio Canani had found another candidate for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Canani won the BC Mile with Silic (1999) and Val Royal (2001), and Special Ring appeared to be a contender for the 2002 Mile. That didn't happen after Special Ring was diagnosed with a cracked bone in an ankle last summer.

This year, Canani and owner William Preston have the same goal for Special Ring, who makes his 2003 debut in Monday's $350,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park. Canani had considered a prep race for Special Ring but decided to train the 6-year-old gelding up to the Shoemaker.

"Running him a month before wouldn't have meant anything," Canani said. "He could have run too hard. He has enough foundation. He's good enough. They told me to give him 90 days off and I gave him 150."

Special Ring was sixth in the 2002 Shoemaker, leading to early stretch before fading to finish 4 1/2 lengths behind the winner, Ladies Din, who will defend his title on Monday.

Special Ring has not lost since the 2002 Shoemaker. He won a one-mile allowance race on turf last July in 1:32.91, leading throughout, and then won the Wickerr Handicap from off the pace.

Canani credits Special Ring's success to a decision to geld him in 2001. At one point, frustrations were so high that Special Ring was entered in a race at Santa Anita in February 2002 in which he was eligible to be claimed for $100,000. He won, but there were no takers.

"It took him six months to realize he was a gelding," Canani said. "He kept doing stupid things. He wasn't studdish, but he wanted to do whatever he wanted to do."

Monday's Shoemaker Mile will draw a strong field. The field is expected to include Redattore, the winner of the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March; Century City, the winner of the Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita in April; and Touch of the Blues, who finished third in the Maker's Mark Mile last month at Keeneland.

Others expected to start are Medecis, Nicobar, Tijiyr, and War Zone.

For Special Ring, an impressive comeback race could put him closer to the Breeders' Cup Mile. "After his last two races, you always think that way," Canani said. "He's a very talented horse."

The Shoemaker Mile is one of three stakes on Monday's program, which features a guaranteed pick six pool of $1 million.

The field for the $350,000 Gamely Handicap for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles on turf will include Dress to Thrill, Dublino, Megahertz, Miss Terrible, and Tates Creek.

Dress to Thrill will be making her first start for trainer Christophe Clement and will be ridden by Jose Santos, the rider of Funny Cide. Last December, Dress to Thrill won the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes in her final start for Irish trainer Dermot Weld.

Monday's program also includes the $150,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters over seven furlongs.

Sunday's headliner is the $100,000 Will Rogers Handicap for 3-year-olds over a mile on turf. Trainer John Shirreffs said he is considering paying a $5,000 supplemental entry for Bullistic, the winner of maiden race on April 6, or Private Chef, a maiden race winner in his debut on Feb. 16.

The other probables are Banshee King, Rapier Dance, Singletary, and Winning Stripes.

Mister Acpen earns Whittingham berth

Mister Acpen earned a trip to the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap on June 14 with a victory in a $62,000 allowance race on Wednesday.

The winner of the 2002 Chilean Derby, Mister Acpen joined trainer Kristin Mulhall's barn last winter.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Mister Acpen ($16.20) led throughout. Espinoza hustled Mister Acpen clear on the first turn, then took a hold of the 5-year-old on the backstretch. "At first, I thought he was running off, but he got him to relax," Mulhall said of Espinoza's ride.

Mister Acpen set a slow pace of 24.30 and 49.29 seconds and pulled away through the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Gigli, a Brazilian import making his first start in the U.S. Mister Acpen ran the 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:47.72.

Sarafan, the even-money favorite, finished third in his first start of the year. Sarafan had been scratched from the Dixie Stakes at Pimlico last weekend because of a wet turf course and was rerouted to the allowance race.

Mister Acpen has won 5 of 15 starts. In his U.S. debut last month, in the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland, he finished fourth. The race was his final start for The Thoroughbred Corp. He was recently acquired by Steve Taub and Neil Papiano as part of a multi-horse deal.

The Whittingham Handicap is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf. The potential field is led by Storming Home, the winner of the Jim Murray Handicap on May 10. Gigli, a Group 1 winner in Brazil last year, is being considered for the Whittingham.

Mullins on a roll

Jeff Mullins showed on Wednesday why he is the hottest trainer in Southern California.

In the second race, he won his seventh race of the meeting from nine starters when Flyingdownbaylaurel won a maiden race on turf for California-bred fillies and mares in her first start for Mullins.

Flyingdownbaylaurel had lost four starts by a combined 64 1/2 lengths. Flyingdownbaylaurel was 8-1 on the morning line but went off at 7-2.

She was claimed by Mullins and Eclipse Award-winning owner Richard Englander from trainer Jerry Dutton for $32,000 out of an eighth-place finish in a seven-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita on April 10. Before that race, she had been ninth, eighth, and seventh in sprints.

The 3-year-old Flyingdownbaylaurel is by Alphabet Soup out of a Dynaformer mare, Flying Dyna, bloodlines that suggested she would take to a longer turf race. "This was Englander's call," Mullins said. "He wanted to spend the money and try to to run on the grass. It was all him. I just did my job.

"She was bred to run on grass and we got a Cal-bred going long. She had been working like a monster."

Through Wednesday, Mullins was fourth in the standings; Doug O'Neill led with 16 wins. Mullins says he will not have many starters in coming days, but he does have an excellent chance for a stakes win Monday with King Robyn in the Laz Barrera. King Robyn won the Harry Henson Stakes on turf last month and the San Pedro Stakes on dirt at Santa Anita in March.

- The retired Laffit Pincay Jr. will be honored at Hollywood Park on July 13, the day of the Hollywood Gold Cup. He won the Gold Cup on nine occasions, including the 2002 running with Sky Jack.