11/14/2008 12:00AM

Will O Way carries on family business


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Now that Stardom Bound is safely out of the way, at least for now, the rest of California's 2-year-old filly crop can come out of hiding. Pamona Ball emerged as the real deal two weeks ago in the Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Park, and on Sunday another bunch will go forth in Hollywood's $100,000 Moccasin Stakes at seven furlongs.

It's not hard to figure out that Mi Chiamano Mimi, a daughter of Came Home, is the one to beat off her quick piece of work in the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, while Sorrento Stakes winner Evita Argentina could give her a run, if she wasn't too rattled by her experience in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies

For the sake of past associations, however, there is reason enough to pay close attention to the progress of Will O Way, a daughter of Broken Vow who will be making her third start under the supervision of Vladimir Cerin for owners Ron Waranch and Dave and Holly Wilson.

Already, the memory switch should be tripped. Cerin trained Willow O Wisp, an older half-brother, to win four significant stakes from 2005 to 2007 and come close in several others. Any similarities between big brother and little sister are not the least bit coincidental, while the differences seem to be in the filly's favor.

"She has more scope than her brother," Cerin said Friday morning. "And she's a lot sounder mentally."

Cerin already has had a good fourth quarter, after sending out Albertus Maximus to win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, so anything Will O Way can produce will be gravy. She has not run since the Oak Leaf, on Sept. 27, in which she faded to finish seven lengths behind Stardom Bound. In the Del Mar Debutante, Will O Way missed second by just a neck, 4 1/2 lengths behind Stardom Bound.

"There's only been one filly who has run decisively better than the rest of the fields," Cerin said, referring to Stardom Bound. "If you put a line through my filly's last race, then the Del Mar Debutante definitely points her out."

Cerin was asked if there was good reason to throw out his filly's Oak Leaf performance, as he suggested.

"I'm not sure, but if you did, you'd see that she did get stuck on the inside that day, and she needs one steady run on the outside from maybe the three-eighths pole," Cerin said. "She doesn't have a huge burst, but she's got a steady, strong finish."

Since the early success of Willow O Wisp, Cerin has been basically stalking the family. He trains another half-brother, Kizzy's Chaos, who was scheduled to run Friday night at Hollywood. All come courtesy of the 17-year-old Woodman mare Willow Woodman, who descends from a solid old Elmendorf family that includes True Statement. Cerin relies on Florida horseman Mike Lightner, who first trained Willow O Wisp, to give him a heads up, which he did when Will O Way made her debut at Calder on July 27.

"She was very impressive," Cerin said. "She was left at the gate, weaved her way through the field, and got up in the last couple of jumps. It was a highly professional effort."

Willow O Wisp did his best running on the lead in winning the Cinema Handicap, the Inglewood Handicap, and the Del Mar Derby. In his best losing effort, he was lapped on The Tin Man and Get Funky - another Del Mar Derby winner - at the end of the 2007 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood.

"Talk about a goofy horse," Cerin said. "It was his peculiarities that made him even more likeable. He would threaten to flip every time you saddled him. Made it impossible. We had to get permission from the stewards, even when we ran him in Hong Kong, to have a pony walk in front of him so we could saddle him on the move."

Idiosyncracies and all, Willow O Wisp earned more than $700,000 before he was sold to Texas horseman Brian Wallis last May, after winning for a $62,500 claiming tag at Hollywood Park. Wallis races as Dormello Stud, the name of his farm in Decatur, just northwest of Dallas. In two starts since the sale, Willow O Wisp, now 7, has been well beaten. Wallis reported that the horse bled badly and was given a break, but will be returning to training soon at Lone Star Park.

"He is in top shape and doesn't have anything, physically, that would deter him from returning to top form," Wallis reported.

"I loved that horse," Cerin added. "And you always worry, no matter where they go, especially when you're with them that long. They become more like your family dog."

Close call for California homebred

Sandra Manzi, wife of the late trainer Joe Manzi and now retired to a small spread in South Carolina, heard about how her former homebred stakes winner Renegotiable, coming 21, was saved from likely slaughter some 10 years ago and is now being cared for at a ranch in Oceanside, just up the road from Del Mar.

"I was shocked," Manzi said. "I gave him to someone for retraining as a jumper, but with the explicit instructions that he would come back to me if it did not work out. To find out that he was almost on the way to slaughter breaks my heart."

Manzi walks the walk. She has Renegotiable's two brothers, both considerably slower, grazing in her backyard pasture. Her response to the Renegotiable news was reflexive and immediate. Manzi reached out to Renegotiable's current owner, 80-year-old Elizabeth Ondrako, and offered to contribute regularly to his care. If anyone asks, that's how a horse owner should behave.