11/23/2004 1:00AM

Vet turned trainer loves new job

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Classic Stamp, shown winning the Canadian Handicap Sept. 19, didn't like the wet Churchill Downs turf.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Greg De Gannes has never been a stranger to a good horse.

His exposure to the best of the breed began early as De Gannes grew up on Windfields Farm where his father, Rolph, was resident veterinarian for 17 years.

Then De Gannes himself became a doctor of veterinary medicine, graduating from the University of Guelph, and has been practicing that craft for 17 years. His clients often included visiting dignitaries of the equine sort, and he was in his glory when the Breeders' Cup was run here in 1996.

His next step was a seven-year tour of duty as an assistant to trainer Mark Casse, whose horses have included such champions as Exciting Story and Added Edge.

And now De Gannes, at age 41, has moved to the next level and is a trainer in his own right.

"I absolutely love it," said De Gannes. "Competitiveness is definitely in my nature.

"There's no better way to deal with that than to be doing something you love, working with horses."

Returning from Florida at the end of May, De Gannes saddled his first entrant on June 27 and had compiled a respectable record of 5-4-3 from 36 starts heading into the final three weeks of the Woodbine meeting.

De Gannes began looking at going out on his own after he and two partners purchased a farm in Florida this March.

"Mark [Casse] and I talked about it," said De Gannes. "I wouldn't have been able to fairly devote myself to an operation of that size anymore when I needed to be at the farm.

"I wanted to put my whole attention into developing the farm, and my own career.

"I've had no greater supporter than Mark. He's a great horsemen, and a good businessman."

De Gannes, whose stable has not exceeded six horses, already has turned out some solid prospects in Dr. Socrates and Mr. Pee Vee.

Dr. Socrates, a Florida-bred 2-year-old, was purchased for $25,000 in Ocala, Fla., in April and races for De Gannes and partners Howard Hamilton and Eric Lue Young under the name Hamdelue Stable.

After winning a five-furlong dash at first asking here Aug. 27, Dr. Socrates finished third in the seven-furlong Swynford. The colt has gone on to run second in each of his last two starts, the first over a mile on the turf and the most recent in the mile and 70-yard prep for the Display Stakes.

Dr. Socrates was nominated to the Display, which will be run here Saturday, but Dr. De Gannes has prescribed a Florida vacation.

"He's already down there," said De Gannes. "I just thought four races was enough, and he had tough races back to back.

"I think he's going to be a really nice horse; he'll be better when he matures as a 3-year-old. I'll just give him a bit of a break and let him grow up."

Mr. Pee Vee races for the Two Docs Stable of Florida-based veterinarian Richard George and dentist Ed Weiss, who were referred to De Gannes by a third party and whom he has never met in the flesh.

"He's turned out to be a really pleasant surprise," said De Gannes of Mr. Pee Vee.

Mr. Pee Vee, a Florida-bred 3-year-old colt, finished eighth when debuting on turf in a maiden special weights race, and then romped when dropped in for $40,000 in a 6 1/2-furlong main-track sprint.

His Beyer Speed Figure that day was an eye-opening 86 and Mr. Pee Vee went one better when he also won his next start, earning an 87 Beyer in a first-level allowance at seven furlongs.

"He certainly was impressive last time," De Gannes said. "I think off his last race, if he continues to develop, he'll be a force."

Mr. Pee Vee also is on the farm in Florida, but both he and Dr. Socrates should run this winter.

De Gannes, meanwhile, still has five horses at Woodbine and will be hoping to build on his numbers next season.

"I'm going to be talking to a couple of people this winter," said De Gannes. "Hopefully, I'll be back here with more than six horses. And, not just with more 2-year-olds but with a nice spread, across the board."

Classic Stamp disliked soft going

Classic Stamp, a 4-year-old filly who finished fifth as the 8-5 favorite in Saturday's Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs, is on her way to the farm in Ocala.

Classic Stamp was beaten by 4 3/4 lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Cardinal over turf rated yielding.

"She's a big, heavy mare and she got bogged down in the deep, deep going," said Cliff Hopmans, who trains Classic Stamp.

Classic Stamp, a candidate for the Sovereign Award in the filly-mare turf division, could run in the Grade 2, $200,000 La Prevoyante, a 1 1/2-mile turf race at Calder on Dec. 18. "Or, we might just stop on her, and bring her back next year," said Hopmans.