03/13/2003 12:00AM

Ziadie's trust in Trust N Luck


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Over the last 20 years, only four winners of the Fountain of Youth Stakes have gone on to complete a double in the $1 million Florida Derby, as Einar P. Robsham's Trust N Luck will attempt to do Saturday.

"It would be nice to make it five out of twenty-one," trainer Ralph Ziadie said.

It takes more than a statistic, no matter how provocative, to roil the composure of a veteran horseman like Ziadie, who has some 35 years of experience at his profession. A third generation trainer in his native Jamaica, he came to the U.S. in 1977 and has enjoyed considerable success from his base of operations at Calder. Ziadie is best known for his outstanding work with Sir Bear, who prospered from the care he received and earned $2.5 million.

Sir Bear was retired earlier this year, just as Trust N Luck rose to prominence. Ziadie feels he has a colt who will take him to his first Kentucky Derby, but he is a realist. Trust N Luck must prove his point this weekend if he is to have the chance of a lifetime at Churchill Downs.

This is a weekend of decision for 3-year-olds from one end of America to the other. On Sunday, Santa Anita offers its $250,000 San Felipe Stakes with all eyes on the flashy but relatively untested Atswhatimtalknbout. The Gotham Mile in New York and the Tampa Bay Derby are other opportunities to gain an invitation to the Grand Ball.

Everyone wants to attend but credentials are in limited supply.

Speed is highly prized and this is where Trust N Luck appears to have an edge. He led all the way to win the Fountain of Youth by more than five lengths and he is expected to repeat those tactics in the Florida Derby.

"I haven't seen any new faces with his kind of speed," Ziadie said. "As for the horses we've run against, it's fairly late in the game to try and change strategy. The horses to beat in the Florida Derby? Bobby Frankel's colt, Empire Maker, is the unknown factor. He has great pedigree but has been something of a disappointment. I feel we have an edge since he shipped in to run while we are home.

"Manny Tortora has a nice colt in Supah Blitz but Trust N Luck has done well against him."

Trust N Luck had a perfect trip in the Fountain of Youth, and was in control of the pace. He's likely to be under more pressure in the Florida Derby and his reaction is key. Empire Maker has been disappointing but will wear blinkers for the first time and that could make a substantial difference. He also comes equipped with Jerry Bailey and it would be surprising if Bailey and Empire Maker don't challenge Trust N Luck for control of the Florida Derby.

One reason for the burgeoning interest in San Felipe favorite Atswhatimtalknbout is the partial ownership recently purchased by stars and executives of the forthcoming film "Seabiscuit."

There was a time when such Hollywood personalities as Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Louis B. Mayer, Harry James, and others raced stables at the California tracks and were frequently in attendance, to the benefit of racing.

The Hollywood crowd knew how to have a good time. Weekend trips to Del Mar during the summer were immensely popular, and Crosby and Pat O'Brien, with ownership interests in the track, were genial hosts.

Horatio Luro, a dashing young trainer in those days and a frequent companion of Lana Turner, recounted the custom of clubhouse dinners on Saturdays, following the races. After dinner, those attending were obligated to entertain, with a song or routine or magic trick. Dancing followed and these pleasant get-togethers often lasted to dawn.