05/25/2007 12:00AM

The Tin Man, 9, training like a kid

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - At the age of 9, The Tin Man will be facing some horses half his age when he makes his 2007 debut in Monday's $398,200 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile at Hollywood Park.

Judging from his 2006 form, The Tin Man might have a chance to upset top contenders Kip Deville, who is seeking his fourth consecutive graded stakes win, and Chinese Dragon, the winner of the San Francisco Mile last month who will be trying to win his first Grade 1.

The Tin Man is the senior member of the 10-horse Shoemaker field, and has career earnings of $3,126,860, befitting his experience.

"I didn't scare anybody off, huh?" trainer Richard Mandella said, jokingly.

While the race has a robust field, none of the other runners matched The Tin Man's credentials in 2006, when he won 4 of 5 starts and earned $1,990,000, racing strictly in stakes.

Despite those accomplishments, The Tin Man has something to prove in the Shoemaker. He won the last time he raced at a mile on turf, which came in an allowance race at Santa Anita, but that was back in December 2005. Last year, The Tin Man ran distances of 1 1/8 to 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Most of the Shoemaker entrants are mile specialists, such Kip Deville, who won the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in March; Becrux, who won the Woodbine Mile last September; Right Special, a stakes winner from Brazil; and Chinese Dragon.

Then, there is Charmo, who was second in the 2006 Shoemaker, arguably the last exceptional race of his career. Even though he was third behind Chinese Dragon in the San Francisco Mile, that race was considered a setback by trainer Julio Canani.

"Let's see if he can get his form back," Canani said. "He's been a disappointment this year."

The Tin Man has not started since winning the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles on turf last September at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting. Planned starts in the Breeders' Cup Turf and Citation Handicap were canceled after The Tin Man showed signs of soreness, Mandella said.

The Tin Man led in most of his 2006 starts, but Mandella envisions the gelding as a stalker in the Shoemaker, which is expected to have a quick pace.

"He got to the front in the long races because there was no pace," he said. "At a mile, I feel he'll settle.

"Looking at him, he looks like he's ready to run the race of his life. Who knows? The Tin Man could be rusty, but he doesn't train like it."

The pun will seem funnier if The Tin Man wins.

Pick six pool a guaranteed $1 million

The Shoemaker Mile is the highlight of a 10-race program Monday that includes the $373,800 Gamely Breeders' Cup Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies and mare.

The Grade 1 Gamely drew only six entrants, but has two outstanding mares trained by Bobby Frankel - Price Tag, the winner of the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes here last November, and Citronnade, who has won three consecutive stakes.

The program also offers a guaranteed pick six pool of $1 million. The pick six covers the fifth through 10th races. Aside from the Gamely, which is the ninth race, all the pick six races have 10 or more entrants.

Lava Man, Balance both work

Lava Man, the leading older horse in California, and Balance, the leading older female in California, worked at Hollywood Park on Friday for stakes in coming weeks.

Lava Man, who won the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in his last U.S. start in March, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60. Owned by STD Racing and Jason Wood and trained by Doug O'Neill, Lava Man is likely to start in the $300,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on turf, a race he won last year.

O'Neill has the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30 as a long-term goal. Lava Man finished last of 16 in the Dubai Duty Free at Nad Al Sheba on March 31.

Balance worked six furlongs in 1:14.40 on Friday, preparing for the $175,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap here on June 3. Jockey Victor Espinoza was aboard for the workout, according to trainer David Hofmans.

Owned by John and Jerry Amerman, Balance has not started since winning the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap at Santa Anita on March 10. Her long-term goal is the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Monmouth Park in October, Hofmans said.

"She's fresh and strong," Hofmans said. "She's got a tough campaign coming up.

Thor's Echo cranking up

Thor's Echo, the champion sprinter of 2006, is tack-walking at O'Neill's stable, less than two weeks after returning from a winter and spring campaign in Dubai.

Thor's Echo will begin racetrack training on Wednesday, O'Neill said. The 5-year-old is expected to return to racing in the late summer.

Thor's Echo was purchased privately by Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum of Dubai in January. Thor's Echo made two starts in Dubai, finishing sixth in a Grade 3 stakes on March 1 and sixth in the $2 million Golden Shaheen sprint on the Dubai World Cup undercard on March 31.