01/05/2008 12:00AM

Daaher advances toward Donn


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Daaher, who closed out his 3-year-old campaign with three straight victories, including a 2 1/2-length upset over Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, had his first official work of the new year when breezing a half mile in 49.30 seconds under regular exercise rider Rob Massey at Palm Meadows on Saturday.

Daaher, a son of Awesome Again owned by the Shadwell Stable, will launch his 2008 campaign in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap here on Feb. 2.

"He's doing very well," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He has three more works before the Donn. He's pretty fit. We never really stopped on him after the Cigar Mile since it's only seven weeks between his last race and the Donn."

If all goes according to plan, Daaher will use the Donn as a springboard to the Dubai World Cup. It's the same itinerary that McLaughlin used last winter for 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, who won both races to close out his career.

"He's really an exciting horse, and I'm really looking forward to racing him this year," McLaughlin said of Daaher. "He's pretty much a push-button horse; he does everything right. We had a little delay putting the blinkers on him. He wasn't as focused as we'd have wanted before that, but he's done nothing wrong since getting the blinkers."

McLaughlin also has a couple of Grade 1 winners from Argentina, Mach Glory and Morador Llers, whom he is looking forward to running here this winter. Both were nominated to but did not participate in Friday's Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap. McLaughlin will also pass on Saturday's Grade 2 Old Hat Stakes with Sabooh to run the A.P. Indy filly in a first-level allowance race on the grass here Wednesday.

Lovely Isle, Cozy Mesa tune up for Old Hat

Two prospective Old Hat starters worked on Saturday. Lovely Isle breezed five furlongs in 1:00 over the fast track at Palm Meadows, while Cozy Mesa covered the same distance in 1:02 over a sloppy surface at Gulfstream.

Lovely Isle is perfect and virtually untested in two starts, registering two easy wins at Aqueduct for trainer Bobby Frankel. Cozy Mesa enters her 3-year-old campaign off a 3 1/4-length allowance win at a mile at Churchill Downs.

A small field is likely for the Old Hat, including perhaps A Little Gem, Indy's Alexandra, Melissa Jo, and Orinoquia.

Sunday's lineup for the Grade 3 First Lady Handicap will likely be led by Sugar Swirl, Quality Affair, Cash's Girl, and possibly Marina Ballerina.

Trainer Steve Margolis said he's weighing his options with Marina Ballerina, who is also eligible for an allowance race on the same card.

"Rgirldoesn'tbluff is nominated to the First Lady, and she's got the same running style as my filly so I'm not sure I'd want to hook up with her if she goes into the stakes," Margolis said.

Pletcher starting meet slowly

Trainer Todd Pletcher has been conspicuous by his absence during the opening week of the meet. Pletcher, who has won the last four Gulfstream trainer titles, started only two horses during the first four days of the meet, Keyed Entry and Mini Sermon, both of whom competed in stakes. Pletcher was serving a suspension when the meet opened last winter, but his barn sent out eight starters and won two races during the first four programs in 2007.

War Pass stablemates also bear watching

Trainer Nick Zito, whose undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner War Pass is the current favorite for the Kentucky Derby, has several other 3-year-olds prospects in his barn this winter, including Stevil and Da' Tara.

Stevil, a son of Maria's Mon, finished second after being forced wide into the stretch behind Visionaire in a first-level allowance race going a mile on Friday.

Da' Tara bounced back from a disappointing 2-year-old finale at Calder to win a maiden allowance race at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream on Saturday.

War Pass is scheduled to have his first work since shipping to south Florida later this week, Zito said .