04/28/2007 12:00AM

Divine Park wins as Withers fill-in


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Divine Park proved to be more than a suitable plan B for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in Saturday's Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct.

Subbing for an injured Elusive Warning, Divine Park registered a front-running, 3 1/4-length victory over favored C P West in the $150,000 Withers before 3,666 at Aqueduct. It was 1 1/4 lengths back to Frosty Secret in third. Mint Slewlep, Street Magician, Our Sacred Honor, and Brisco N Logan completed the order of finish.

The victory was the third from as many starts for Divine Park, a son of Chester House owned by James Barry. Though last year's Withers winner, Bernardini, came back to win the Preakness, McLaughlin indicated Divine Park would most likely skip that race.

"I don't think so," McLaughlin, who watched the race from Kentucky, said about running in the Preakness. "The owner said one of his dreams would be to run in the Haskell, so we may pick a race or two before and try that."

The $1 million Haskell is run at Monmouth Park on Aug. 5. Barry is a New Jersey resident.

Breaking from the rail under Alan Garcia in the Withers, Divine Park broke well and dueled with Street Magician through fractions of 22.93 seconds, 45.46 and 1:09.77. Turning for home, Garcia shook Divine Park up and he quickly opened up a three-length lead and basically maintained that margin through the lane despite racing greenly.

Divine Park covered the mile in 1:34.65 and returned $7.70 as the

second choice.

"I didn't think he went that fast," Garcia said. "My horse was just

galloping, and before the quarter pole I was checking out who's

coming. I saw nobody, I asked him to go a little bit. My horse was running, but he was green a little bit."

C P West raced in the second flight of horses and never really threatened the winner in the stretch, settling for second for the third time in five starts.

"I just had to wait a little bit," jockey Edgar Prado said. "When I turned him loose he started gaining. It seemed like the winner had everything his way."

Masseuse overcomes yielding turf

One race before the Withers, Prado guided Masseuse to a hard-fought neck victory over a stubborn Stormy Kiss to take the Grade 3, $113,600 Beaugay Handicap, the first turf stakes of the year in New York. It was 2 1/2 lengths back to Finlandia, who nosed out Artistic Express for third. Miss Shop, the 6-5 favorite, was fifth.

It was the first stakes victory for Masseuse, a 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer owned by Henry Elser and Ronald, Patricia, and Justin Nicholson.

Massuse won despite not really enjoying the yielding turf course.

"At the half-mile pole it's a swamp," said Prado, who won four races on Saturday's card. "She was trying, she was fighting hard, but I don't think that's her thing."

Masseuse rated in fourth position behind fractions of 25.44 seconds, 51.59, and 1:17.07 rallied three wide in the stretch and had to work hard to get past a resolute Stormy Kiss, who was making her turf debut for trainer Barclay Tagg. Masseuse

finally got past about 30 yards from the wire. Masseuse covered the

1 1/16 miles in 1:47.43.

"I think she would have kicked on a little bit more with a little firmer ground," winning trainer Jimmy Toner said. "She's handled good ground, but this is a little bit more than good. I think she did this strictly on her own - strictly class."

Toner said he would look to stretch Masseuse out in distance in a race like the All Along Breeders' Cup Stakes at Colonial Downs on June 16 or the New York BC Handicap at Belmont on June 23.

Sun King returning in Westchester

Sun King, whose 4-year-old season was full of tough losses, will seek to kick off his 5-year-old season on a winning note in Wednesday's Grade 3, $100,000 Westchester Handicap, the opening-day feature at Belmont Park.

The Westchester is a prep for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, a race Sun King lost by a head to Silver Train last year. Jockey Corey Nakatani will ride Sun King from post 4. Nakatani guided Sun King to his last victory, the Grade 2 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Handicap in April 2006.

Those entered against Sun King include Park Avenue Ball, Political Force, Utopia, Happy Hunting, and Evening Attire.