12/28/2003 1:00AM

Tin Can Sailor game in Riley Allison

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Bill Pitt
Tin Can Sailor ($11.80) under Carlos Madeira holds off a slew of late closers to take the $175,851 Riley Allison Futurity by a half-length over Hi Teck Man (#5) on Saturday at Sunland Park.

SUNLAND PARK, N. M. - Tin Can Sailor earned a berth in the second running of the $500,000 WinStar Derby March 28 by pulling a mild upset in the $175,851 on Saturday at Sunland Park.

Jockey Carlos Madeira sent the lightly-raced colt up to join favored Korbyn Gold on the front end, going through a half in 45.72 seconds. Shortly after that Korbyn Gold gave way, leaving Tin Can Sailor a clear lead that he carried past the sixteenth pole. In the final yards, with several challenges mounting from his outside, Tin Can Sailor ($11.80) dug in gamely to score a hard-earned victory by a half-length over Hi Teck Man. Fleet Deputy was another neck back in third.

"I thought I had the horse all along, but you never know until they get hooked," trainer Joel Marr reflected afterwards.

Sunland Park has plans to enter the Kentucky Derby prep picture in the coming years and the Allison is the first event of a $250,000 bonus series. The next leg will be the $100,000-added Borderland Derby, run over a two-turn mile February 29 and concludes with the 1 1/16 mile WinStar. Marr believes his horse can get a distance, but isn't making any bold predictions.

"Right now we'll just give him a little break, see how he comes out of this one, then start training towards the Borderland."

Tin Can Sailor made his debut on November 25 at Sunland, then ran in the Allison trial December 12, making all three of his career outs span a period of just less than five weeks, justifying Marr's decision to for a freshening. Marr does think Tin Can Sailor will make the transition to racing around two turns.

"I can't say for sure, but I believe he will. He is from Military's first crop so we don't know what type of sire he is yet, but he won several stakes at a route in California and is by Danzig, so that makes me think he can. I also believe he will rate well and that the slower pace of longer races will be no problem."

Britt owned Tin Can Sailor's dam, the Rare Brick mare Rare Ruby, but then sold her after her racing career ended. When he saw her foal listed in Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's November sale catalogue under the consignment of Glencrest Farm he decided to go buy him, and got a bargain at $27,000. Tin Can Sailor took down $87,296 for his Allison win and heads into his sophomore season with a perfect three-for-three record and $103,796 in earnings.