11/25/2004 12:00AM

Special Ring's challenge: Catch me

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - With their reputations battered by losses in the Breeders' Cup Mile last month, Nothing to Lose and Special Ring try to rebound in Saturday's $400,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park.

With a victory in the Grade 1 Citation, which offers a first-place purse of $240,000, Nothing to Lose or Special Ring would become a millioniare. The Citation Handicap, run at 1 1/16 miles on turf, has drawn 11 entrants, all of whom are stakes winners.

The Citation is the seventh race on a 10-race program that includes the $100,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds at a mile on turf.

Nothing to Lose and Special Ring are the 120-pound starting highweights and are Grade 1 stakes winners this year.

, who has won 6 of 14 starts and $809,210 for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won the Shadwell Mile at Keeneland last month before finishing 11th in the Breeders' Cup Mile. He lost a shoe in that race, according to trainer Bobby Frankel.

, a winner of 10 of 27 starts and $915,023 for Prestonwood Farm, won the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap in July at Del Mar in his first start of the year. Special Ring finished 13th in the Breeders' Cup Mile after steadying on the final turn.

Special Ring has become a fixture in top turf stakes in California in the last few years, and trainer Julio Canani is expecting a win on Saturday. Ridden by Corey Nakatani, Special Ring has drawn the outside post and is likely to lead.

"They have to catch Special Ring," said Canani, who is not concerned by the wide post.

"It's good because I didn't want to be on the fence," he said. "He runs off. I wanted to be on the outside."

Special Ring has won the last two runnings of the Eddie Read by leading throughout, and he was a game second in the Shoemaker Mile and American Handicap in 2003 by leading to deep stretch.

Special Ring will be tested in the stretch, but Canani is hoping his 7-year-old gelding has something of a home-course advantage.

"He loves Hollywood," Canani said. "He likes the firm course."

Special Ring could face an early threat from Leroidesanimaux, the winner of the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap here in May, and Gondolieri, the winner of the 2003 Inglewood, who was fourth in the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile last month.

The stalkers are A to the Z, the winner of the California Cup Mile last month; Buckland Manor and Tsigane, who were second and fifth in the Oak Tree Mile; the European invaders Mingun and Three Valleys; the longshot Mananan McLir; and Fairly Ransom, the winner of the 2003 Del Mar Derby.

was unlucky in the Oak Tree Mile, finishing a length behind Musical Chimes. He was blocked for much of the stretch and could not get clear in time to win. Trained by Canani, Tsigane has not started since the Oak Tree Mile.

"He's training super," he said.

If the pace is too fast, Nothing to Lose will be ideally placed as a closer. Nothing to Lose broke from post 12 in the BC Mile, but is drawn in post 3 for the Citation. Frankel said the wide draw was the start of a bad afternoon for Nothing to Lose last month.

"Sometimes you get a bad post and they don't want to be that wide," he said.

Frankel has three starters in the Citation - Leroidesanimaux, Nothing to Lose, and Three Valleys.

Leroidesanimaux has won his last four starts, including the Grade 3 Monrovia Handicap on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita on Oct. 30. He was off between the Inglewood and Monrovia with an undisclosed injury.

Three Valleys has not started since finishing 11th in the English 2000 Guineas. Formerly trained by Roger Charlton, Three Valleys has won or placed in four stakes in his seven-race career.

Three Valleys was sent to Frankel because the horse kept developing mucus in England, Frankel said.

"It seems the dry air here has helped him," Frankel said. "He's training unbelievably."

The field

Citation Handicap
Purse: $400,000; 1 1/16 miles; Grade 1

PPHORSEJOCKEYWT.ODDS
1A to the ZG. Gomez11415-1
2LeroidesanimauxJ. Court1175-2
3Nothing to LoseE. Prado1205-1
4TsiganeM. Pedroza1168-1
5Buckland ManorR. Douglas11610-1
6GondolieriG. Stevens11515-1
7MingunK. Desormeaux11510-1
8Three ValleysR. Dominguez11315-1
9Fairly RansomD. Flores11415-1
10Mananan McLirJ. Valdivia11230-1
11Special RingC. Nakatani1207-2

* Odds by Michael Hammersly