02/13/2004 1:00AM

Change of plans for Mustanfar

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Virtually every 3-year-old who wins a two-turn dirt allowance race in January is mentioned as a horse to watch down the Triple Crown trail. Such was the case with Mustanfar, who rallied to win an entry-level allowance race by a head at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 24.

Earlier in the week, Mustanfar was mentioned as a possible starter for Saturday's Fountain of Youth Stakes or at least a second-level dirt allowance race on that same card.

But it appears Mustanfar - who was not nominated to the Triple Crown series - is headed in another direction. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin did not enter Mustanfar for any race on Saturday and instead will now look to run him in next Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Palm Beach Stakes on turf at Gulfstream.

Mustanfar, owned by Shadwell Stable, is a son of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled. But, he also is out of the Lyphard mare Manwah, who is a half-sister to several stakes-winning turf runners, including the multiple Group 1 winner Nayeff.

"Looking at it, we were possibly fifth best in the Fountain of Youth and second best in the two-other-than,'' McLaughlin said. "The bottom side doesn't get any better pedigree-wise and almost 100 percent of it is turf. We wanted to try it sometime and this seemed like the best time to try it to see if in fact he moves up on the turf. If it happens to rain off the turf, we look very smart with everybody running [Saturday].''

McLaughlin also likes the fact of running nine furlongs in the Palm Beach rather than 1 1/16 miles in the Fountain of Youth. "The further the better,'' he said.

McLaughlin said if Mustanfar doesn't move up on the turf, he could be pointed back to the dirt and could be nominated to the Triple Crown for a fee of $6,000 by the second deadline of March 27.

Passing Shot tries to play spoiler again

Last summer, Passing Shot pulled off one of the stunning upsets of the Saratoga meet when she ran down 1-5 shot Wild Spirit to win the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap.

After ending her season with two disappointing runs, Passing Shot is ready for her 5-year-old debut Sunday when she runs against Roar Emotion, Smok'n Frolic, and Lead Story in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sabin Handicap.

Passing Shot had won only 2 of her first 14 starts before last summer when she reeled off three consecutive wins, including her nose victory over Wild Spirit in the Personal Ensign.

"It was a complete surprise she did as well as she did when she did it,'' trainer Allen Jerkens said. "It looked like she was going to have trouble getting through her conditions. That day she won at Saratoga carrying 124 pounds was a pretty good indication she was coming around.''

Jerkens was referring to a third-level allowance race Passing Shot won on July 30. Three weeks later, she won the Personal Ensign carrying 114 pounds, 8 fewer than Wild Spirit. Passing Shot was beaten by Wild Spirit in the Ruffian in September and then finished last behind Sightseek in the Beldame in October.

"In the Beldame, she didn't run at all,'' Jerkens said. "She had had enough.''

Though Passing Shot went 2 for 2 around two turns last year, Jerkens doesn't necessarily believe she is a better two-turn horse.

"[When] a horse gets good she gets good, it doesn't matter if it's one turn or two turns,'' he said. "I don't know why it should be a big difference. It's just another thing for handicappers to talk about.''

Passing Shot, a daughter of A.P. Indy, has been training well at Gulfstream and completed her preparations for Sunday's race on Friday with a three-furlong blowout in 35.40 seconds, equaling the fastest of 19 at the distance.

Wando about to get serious

Wando, last year's Canadian Triple Crown winner, had his third easy breeze of the winter on Thursday, going four furlongs in 50.60 seconds at Palm Meadows. But, trainer Michael Keogh says Wando will be soon be stepping things up.

"He's still a ways away,'' Keogh said. "His next breeze he'll have a horse in front of him; that's when he gets serious, when he has something to run down.''

Keogh said one race he would like to make this year is the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 31 at Belmont Park. Keogh won that race in 1997 with Langfuhr.

"We got that race in the back of our minds,'' said Keogh, who trains Wando for Gustav Schickedanz.

Wando has not run since finishing third in the Grade 3 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park last Oct. 4.

"He looks a picture of health,'' Keogh said. "I wanted to give him extra time because of the effect the Triple Crown had on him. He's put on quite a bit of weight.''

Shot Gun Favorite may keep racing

When Shot Gun Favorite won Thursday's featured optional claiming race, it moved trainer Ken McPeek into the top 10 in the trainer standings and may have extended her own racing career.

McPeek, who is 5 for 34 at this meet, said Shot Gun Favorite, who won the Prairie Meadows Oaks in September, was to be bred this spring. Friday, McPeek said he and his owners, Stevestan Stables, are having second thoughts.

"We're going to make a decision in the next day or two,'' McPeek said. "I got a feeling she's going to be staying in training. She's a good filly, always has been. She didn't run well in the Sunshine Millions but it was off a long layoff.''

Shot Gun Favorite, a daughter of Eltish, finished 10th in the Sunshine Millions Distaff on dirt. Her victory on Thursday makes her 2 for 3 on turf.

Meanwhile, McPeek is looking forward to next weekend when he will run Prince Arch in Saturday's Palm Beach Stakes and Hard Buck in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Prince Arch, a son of Arch, won an entry-level allowance on turf on Jan. 17, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 82. Hard Buck is coming off a fourth-place finish in the off-the-turf Canadian Turf Handicap.

McPeek said he ran Hard Buck on the dirt in the Canadian "because I did need to get a run in him.''

Sore Mena to miss about three weeks

Jockey Miguel Mena will miss two to three weeks of action as a result of injuries suffered in a spill during Thursday's third race. Mena has a sore neck and sore left ankle.

Mena was aboard Dapper Dandy, who broke down at the five-furlong marker in the race. Mena was taken to Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital, where X-rays were negative. Anibal Prado, Mena's agent, had an interesting take on Mena's injuries.

"He's wearing a neck brace and he's on crutches, but he doesn't have serious injuries,'' Prado said.

* Jockey Joe Bravo took off all seven of his mounts on Friday because of a stomach virus, agent Danny Mellul said.

* Miss Kipper Kitty won Friday's opener and became the first three-time winner of the meet.