02/04/2008 1:00AM

Daaher's loss in Donn stumps trainer


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was hard pressed to find any excuse for Daaher's disappointing performance immediately after Saturday's Grade 1 Donn Handicap, and two days later still had no conclusive explanation for the colt's seventh-place finish as the 4-5 favorite.

"I'm thinking he could have displaced since he runs in a tongue tie and easily displaces upon scoping," McLaughlin said Monday. "He was blowing hard after the race, so maybe the heat or the two months off got to him. But these are all just educated guesses on my part, because so far he looks and checks out just fine."

McLaughlin said he would order a blood test on Daaher sometime Monday to see if that reveals any problems. If not, he'll just chalk it all up to a bad day and move on.

McLaughlin had been hoping to use the Donn as a springboard to the Dubai World Cup on March 29, and still hasn't ruled out a trip to Dubai despite Daaher's poor outing on Saturday.

"We have several different options to get him a race before the World Cup, including the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 1," said McLaughlin. "There are also races for him at the Fair Grounds and Oaklawn during the first week of March that we'll take a look at."

McLaughlin said that Rick Nichols, racing manager for Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum's Shadwell Stable, is on his way to Dubai, and along with Sheikh Hamdan will map out future plans for Daaher.

"I think the Godolphin Mile could also be a possibility if we send him to Dubai," said McLaughlin. "If we scrap those plans, then we'd likely point him for the Carter when we return to New York."

La Dolce Vita's owner files protest

As expected, owner Gary Zwerling filed an official protest on Monday with track officials on behalf of his mare La Dolce Vita, who finished second behind Green Girl in Sunday's Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap.

Green Girl lost her rider, Rene Douglas, in the post parade and ran off for nearly a quarter-mile before being caught by the track's outriders. She then spent the remainder of the post parade without a rider on her back. Douglas remounted once Green Girl was loaded in the gate, and he guided the 6-year-old to a half-length victory over La Dolce Vita in the Suwannee River.

As the basis for the protest, Mark Hennig, who trains La Dolce Vita, cited a Gulfstream Park house rule that states, "If a horse throws its jockey on the way from the paddock to post the horse must be returned to the point where the jockey was thrown where it shall be remounted and proceed over the route of the parade to the post. The horse must carry its assigned weight from paddock to post and from post to finish."

"Me and every trainer and jockey in the race thought it was absurd Green Girl was allowed to benefit by not having her impost on her for approximately 10 minutes," said Hennig. "We are talking about a handicap race in which the basic principle of handicapping the weights is to even things out between the participants. Having one horse go 10 minutes not carrying its weight prior to the race goes completely against that principle."

Director of racing operations Bernie Hettel said Monday that the track stewards would entertain the protest and make a decision by no later than Friday.

"The integrity of this sport is of paramount interest to all of us at Gulfstream Park," said Bill Murphy, the track's president, "and this matter will certainly receive full and prompt attention."

Hennig said the Suwannee River may have been the final start of La Dolce Vita's career, and getting a Grade 3 win would obviously enhance her value as a broodmare.

"She's scheduled to be bred to Pulpit this season," said Hennig. "So much has happened since the race that we haven't had a chance to discuss whether she might run once more or if this was it."

Big Saturday for McPeek

Trainer Ken McPeek threw his hat into the trainer's race after sending out three winners on Saturday's card, including promising 3-year-olds Ling Ling Qi and Juicy Point. The big day marked the first time McPeek has won three races on a single card at Gulfstream and put him two behind current leader Bill Mott and one behind Peter Walder and Nick Zito entering Wednesday's program.

Ling Ling Qi's victory was most satisfying, since the son of Yonaguska had been scratched at the gate less than two weeks earlier with Kent Desormeaux aboard.

"I wasn't even in town that day, but I guess Kent didn't feel the horse was warming up right," explained McPeek. "We got him back to the barn and he seemed fine, worked well the following morning, and ran like we expected him to that day when he returned Saturday."

Juicy Point, a son of Point Given, rallied from far back to win his maiden going 1 1/8 miles on Saturday.

"I'll probably nominate Ling Ling Qi for the Fountain of Youth and Gotham," said McPeek. "I'll probably look for an allowance race next for Juicy Point, although he may need a little time since he had to weave in and out of horses and run pretty hard the other day."

* Trainer Barclay Tagg said the 5-year-old turf star Showing Up was held out of an expected start in Saturday's Fair Grounds Handicap because he strained a muscle during his most recent workout. "At the moment everything with him is on hold," Tagg said Monday.