05/28/2007 12:00AM

The Tin Man, 9, never better in Shoemaker

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INGLEWOOD, Calif.-The Tin Man did not act his age at Hollywood Park on Monday. What he did do was prove why he is one of the best turf horses in the nation.

Making his 9-year-old debut, The Tin Man won his fourth consecutive stakes in the $398,200 Shoemaker Breeders’ Cup Mile, a race that drew an outstanding field of turf milers, most of whom were 4- and 5-year-olds.

Benefiting from a perfect trip under jockey Victor Espinoza, The Tin Man won the Grade 1 Shoemaker by three-quarters of a length over Get Funky, who finished a nose in front of pacesetter Willow O Wisp.

The Tin Man ($9) ran a mile in 1:34.34.

The also-rans included such notable names as fourth-place finisher Becrux, the winner of the Woodbine Mile last September; sixth-place finisher Kip Deville, who won the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March; and seventh-place finisher Chinese Dragon, the winner of the San Francisco Mile in April.

Those top contenders were compromised by a slow pace that allowed the first three runners at the half-mile pole – Willow O Wisp, Get Funky and The Tin Man – to make up the winning trifecta.

Willow O Wisp set fractions of 24.18 and 48.12 seconds, leading by a length over Get Funky on the backstretch. The Tin Man was within 1 1/2 lengths of Willow O Wisp on the backstretch, racing three wide. He continued that wide rally on the turn, drawing within a length of Willow O Wisp. The Tin Man took the lead in the final furlong, and was never threatened by the closers.

The Shoemaker was the first stakes win of his career at a mile. He has excelled at distances of 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 miles on turf in the past, having won such races as the Arlington Million and Clement Hirsch Handicap last summer and fall.

Owned by Ralph and Aury Todd and trained by Richard Mandella, The Tin Man has won 13 of 28 starts and $3,365,780.