02/02/2004 12:00AM

Cajun Beat looks tip-top


BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Steve Margolis had scheduled Cajun Beat's final workout for Saturday's $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap for early Monday morning at the Palm Meadows training center here. But when heavy fog shrouded the course, making it impossible for Margolis to watch his horse train, he postponed the work until after the break, nearly two hours later.

When Cajun Beat finally got to work, Margolis loved what he saw.

With light fog still hovering over the track, Cajun Beat broke off in near obscurity at the three-furlong pole but was full of run when he came into view at the head of the stretch. He continued at a steady pace past the wire and around the turn to the one-mile pole, covering four furlongs in 46.20 seconds. To help ascertain Cajun Beat's final time, Margolis positioned at the three-furlong pole a colleague who notified the clockers when Cajun Beat passed the pole. The final time was two seconds faster than any other work at the distance Monday.

Cajun Beat, the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, will go off as the favorite and starting highweight under 123 pounds in the 6 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister. He captured the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap here opening day.

"His last work was a little lackluster, so I told the rider to let him go on his own but make sure he got a good, sharp work," said Margolis. "He's really thriving now. He's been training great since his previous work, looks better than ever, and is going into this race as good as he did either of his last two starts."

A field of seven or eight is expected for the Deputy Minister. The probables include Gygistar, True Direction, Coach Jimi Lee, Alke, and American Style. Day Trader, Buju, and Well Fancied are also possibilities.

The race lost one key starter when Voodoo was withdrawn from consideration by trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

"He's been a little off in behind, and we haven't been able to get to the bottom of the problem just yet," said Jerkens.

Voodoo, winner of the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap in October, finished fourth after pressing the pace in the Mr. Prospector.

Jerkens also nominated Iron Deputy to the Deputy Minister, but Iron Deputy, too, is nursing an injury and is not under consideration for the race.

"He's got a little foot problem," said Jerkens. "Hopefully we'll have him back in time to run somewhere here before we head home."

Loose horse bothers Formal Attire

Monday's foggy conditions also prompted trainer Phil Serpe to push back Formal Attire's scheduled five-furlong workout to late in the morning. But even though the sun was shining and visibility was not a problem by the time Formal Attire came out on the track, his work did not go off without a hitch.

A loose horse heading in Formal Attire's direction forced him to be steadied for several strides as he approached the quarter pole, after which Formal Attire concluded the workout without incident. His final time for five furlongs was 1:02.40.

"We postponed the work and still things didn't work out smoothly," said Serpe. "Luckily nobody got hurt. I had him work well off the rail purposely because the track was on the deep side until you got about four or five paths out from the fence."

Formal Attire, an impressive allowance winner here earlier in the meet, is under consideration for Saturday's $300,000 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita.

"We began thinking about the Strub when it looked like it was going to come up a short field," said Serpe on Monday. "I'll wait to see how he comes out of the work, check with the racing office in California to see what's going on with the race, and then make a final decision sometime Tuesday. If he goes he'll fly out Wednesday."

Predawn Raid works alone

Predawn Raid, a prospective starter for Saturday's Grade 1 Donn Handicap, was the only horse to have an official workout over the Gulfstream Park track Monday. He was timed in 1:08 for five furlongs over the heavy track.

Trainer Benny Stutts Jr. was unable to attend the workout and will also miss the Donn after undergoing surgery Monday to have rods and screws inserted in his spine.

A field of eight is now shaping up for the Donn, with Seattle Fitz confirmed Monday as a starter and Country Be Gold also under consideration for the race. Medaglia d'Oro, Funny Cide, Puzzlement, Bowman's Band, and The Judge Sez Who are also expected to start.

Last Song to go in Davona Dale

Trainer Carl Nafzger has confirmed that Last Song will start in Saturday's $100,000 Davona Dale Stakes. The Davona Dale is a prep for this meet's premier event for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss on March 6.

Owned by Buckram Oak, Last Song earned her starting berth in the Grade 3 Davona Dale with an impressive 8 3/4-length entry-level allowance win Jan. 19. The victory was the second straight for Last Song, a daughter of Unbridled's Song.

"She's gotten better and better with every race but she'll be going into this race a little more inexperienced than some of the others," said Nafzger. "But you've got to run against better quality horses to really get fit. Hopefully these kind of horses will ultimately take you where you want to go, and right now the Kentucky Oaks is where we want to go this spring."

Harmony Lodge works

Trainer Todd Pletcher seemingly had half of his barn out to work Monday at Palm Meadows, including Harmony Lodge who went a half-mile in 48.80 in preparation for Sunday's Grade 3 Shirley Jones Handicap. Harmony Lodge, winner of the Grade 3 First Lady Handicap earlier in the meet, will be the highweight and favorite in the 6 1/2-furlong Shirley Jones. She'll concede three pounds apiece to Randaroo and Chispiski.