01/15/2002 1:00AM

Coa has no regrets about Saudi Arabia trip


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Anyone with a complaint about airline delays shouldn't try to tell their story to Eibar Coa. He might not be too sympathetic after losing a $6,000 payday and perhaps the mount on three-time Grade 1 winner Sir Bear when unable to complete flight connections from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to south Florida in time for last Saturday's Skip Away Handicap.

The amazing 9-year-old gelding Sir Bear, with Edgar Prado substituting for Coa, rallied to upset even-money favorite Red Bullet in the Grade 3 Skip Away.

"Our flight from Riyadh to Egypt was delayed and we missed the connection and had to wait around for the next flight," said Coa. "I knew right then and there I wasn't going to make it back in time to make the race. I didn't land in Florida until late Saturday night."

Despite missing the opportunity to ride Sir Bear in the Skip Away, Coa was still more than happy he made the trip to Saudi Arabia, where he guided Christo's Quest to victory in the prestigious King's Cup on Friday.

"Even if I knew up front I couldn't make the connections in time to ride the Skip Away I would have still made the trip to Saudi Arabia," said Coa. "Christo's Quest is scheduled to make his next start in the Dubai World Cup and as far as I know I'll have the mount."

Coa didn't let the disappointment of missing out on a victory in the Skip Away or a case of jet lag disrupt his riding once he returned home. He posted consecutive doubles on Sunday and Monday's programs giving him eight winners over the first 11 days of the meet.

"I don't know what will happen with Sir Bear the next time he runs," said Coa. "I would understand if Edgar got first call after winning this race although hopefully he'll have another mount in the race if Sir Bear runs back in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. I already have a mount for the Donn."

Coa's mount in the Donn is Best of the Rest, who like Sir Bear is based year-round at Calder. The injury-plagued Best of the Rest, in the midst of yet another comeback following knee problems, lost for the first time in three races when he finished fourth as the 3-5 favorite in the Fred W. Hooper Handicap on Dec. 29.

"He bruised a foot in the Hooper then kicked the wall of his stall and had his ankle blow up," trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said. "But he went back to the track and galloped well today [Monday], will breeze later in the week, and is still on target for the Donn."

Rose tries another longshot

Trainer Harold Rose is hoping lightning will strike again Saturday when he sends out his homebred Speedy Leon in the Holy Bull Stakes. Rose shocked the racing world two years ago when his Hal's Hope won the Holy Bull at odds of 40-1 and then returned eight weeks later to capture the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

A victory by Speedy Leon on Saturday might not be quite a surprise but it would be considered a major upset none the less. Speedy Leon has captured just 2 of 10 career starts although he does come off a second-place finish to O'Rocky in Calder's What a Pleasure Stakes in his 2-year-old finale on Dec. 8.

Mandy's Gold likely for First Lady

Mandy's Gold, who has crossed the finish line first in all five career starts, will likely make her 4-year-old debut in Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 First Lady Handicap, trainer Michael Gorham said Tuesday.

Gorham had thought about waiting for an allowance race, but a prospective small field for the First Lady has him leaning toward running in Friday's six-furlong stakes.

It will be her first start since April 13 when Mandy's Gold was disqualified from first and placed second in the Grade 3 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct. Gorham explained that he was going to give Mandy's Gold a break following the Comely, but it became an extended layoff after she got sick a couple of times and suffered a muscle pull.

Gorham had Mandy's Gold was entered in a race at Laurel Park last month, but had to scratch when she again got sick.

Mandy's Gold, a daughter of Gilded Time, went 3 for 3 over this track last winter, including an upset of Raging Fever in the Dame Mysterieuse Stakes.

In the Comely, Mandy's Gold made all the pace under Edgar Prado, but was ruled to have cut off Two Item Limit in the stretch. It was viewed by many as a questionable call.

"Edgar was riding his race and when [Mandy's Gold] switched leads she came in half a step," Gorham said. "Edgar did win kind of easy, but that horse was coming back on her. If she had won by 10, they probably wouldn't have taken her down."

Others expected to run in the First Lady are Cat Cay, Raging Fever, Vague Memory, and Miss Inquistive. Elvi Gamble, Crimson Native, and Curious Treasures are also possible.

Clement pumped up for Mac Diarmida

Revved Up, an older half-brother to the stakes-winning Miesque's Approval, will makes his turf stakes debut Sunday when he runs in the Grade 3, $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap at 1 3/8 miles.

Plagued by knee problems early in his career, Revved Up, a 4-year-old son of Sultry Song, has only made nine career starts. But he ran the two best races of his career in a 26-day span last November taking a pair of turf allowances at Aqueduct.

"He won his last two in New York, he's doing good, so let's go," Clement said. "He had changes in his knees as a 2-year-old so we gave him time."

Revved Up gets in the Mac Diarmida with only 112 pounds. Jose Santos will ride. Others expected to run, and their weight assignments, are: Profit Option (116), Mr. Pleasentfar (115), Monkey Puzzle (114), Crash Course (113), Eltawaasul (113), Serazzo (112), and Unite's Big Red (112), who won this race in 2000, the last time it was run.

On Tuesday, Eltawaasul breezed four furlongs in 48.80 seconds on the dirt at Gulfstream.

Dirt or turf for Political Attack?

Political Attack, winner of the Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day, could make his next start in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on dirt on Feb. 16. But, he could just as easily wind up in the Palm Beach Stakes on turf six days later. Trainer John Hennig hasn't decided just yet.

"We want to spot him right," Hennig said. "But, I'm not too sure that dirt would be a deterrent from spotting him right."

The dirt became a more viable option when Political Attack won the nine-furlong, off-the-turf Tropical Park Derby by 4 1/2 lengths. Before that, he won his previous three starts on turf.

He has a bit of a grass pedigree, but he's always handled [dirt] in the morning," Hennig said. "That race just took the guesswork out of it."

Hennig said he has not yet caught Kentucky Derby fever, but said that Political Attack has been nominated to the Triple Crown races. Hennig said he has also nominated Political Attack to the $2 million UAE Derby on March 23 at Nad al Sheba. As a son of Hawk Attack out of the Copelan mare Cope's Light, Political Attack has the breeding to run all day.

"His Dosage would indicate that the Belmont would be an interesting spot for him," Hennig said. "We're not running into the Derby trail, but it's always in the back of your mind."

Last Saturday, at Payson Park, Political Attack worked four furlongs in 50.60 seconds.

- additional reporting by David Grening