01/26/2007 12:00AM

Can't Beat It stretches out in toss-up


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There are no shortage of graded stakes opportunities for long-winded turf specialists at Gulfstream Park this meet, and the first one comes on Sunday when a full and evenly matched field of 12 competes at 1 3/8 miles in the $150,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap.

The Grade 2 Mac Diarmida is a prelude to the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 24 and the Grade 2 Pan American Handicap on March 31.

Only three pounds separate co-highweights Can't Beat It and Dreadnaught from the low-weighted Tissy Fit in this year's edition of the Mac Diarmida. The race marks the return of Mustanfar, who has not started since finishing ninth in the 2006 Dubai Sheema Classic.

Trainer Marty Wolfson will stretch Can't Beat It around three turns for the first time, hoping to open new avenues for the son of Atticus, who has won three stakes - including the Grade 3 Calder Derby last season - but has yet to beat older horses. He may be a perfect complement to his uncoupled stablemate Mending Fences, who has won his last four starts and figures to set the pace while trying to stretch beyond 1 1/8 miles for the first time.

Dreadnaught is still going strong at age 7 and comes into the Mac Diarmida off a couple of heartbreaking setbacks. He was beaten a neck in each of his last two starts, including the Ft. Lauderdale here this month.

Mustanfar will drop from Grade 1 company for the first time in his last six starts dating back to February 2005, when he registered his most recent victory, under fourth-level optional claiming conditions at Gulfstream.

"He didn't have any physical problems, I just decided to give him a break after Dubai," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He's been training great, although he's a bit older and smarter now, and while I think he'll run well he's been away a long time and might need a run."

One of the intriguing members of the field is Bee Charmer, who is perfect in two starts since coming to this country and into the barn of trainer Michael Matz last fall. An Irish-bred, he has proven he can stay a route of ground, having won his maiden in France going 1 1/4 miles and his U.S. debut at 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland in October.

Request for Parole and Ramazutti are the only returnees from the 2006 Mac Diarmida. Request for Parole finished fourth, beaten two lengths by Hotstufanthensome, after rallying to take the lead going into the stretch. Ramazutti forced the pace before fading to finish 10th last year.