01/27/2009 12:00AM

Elusive Heat opts for far easier spot

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Elusive Heat would have likely been favored had she started in Friday's Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes. Instead, she could go off the shortest price of any horse at the meet when she returns off a heart-wrenching setback in the Grade 3 Old Hat Stakes under entry-level allowance conditions in Thursday's $42,000 feature at Gulfstream Park.

Elusive Heat was an instant sensation, winning her career debut by 5 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park on Oct. 12 while earning a 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the process. In the six-furlong Old Hat, Elusive Heat used her explosive speed to quickly sprint clear of a strong field, then dug in resolutely in the face of a prolonged challenge from Gemswick Park before dropping a nose decision to her more experienced rival. Frolic's Dream also joined the fray down the lane and finished another nose back in third.

"The two fillies she battled to the wire in the Old Hat are both going into the Forward Gal on Friday, and I thought this allowance race was a nice spot to get her to win a race," explained trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, when asked why he was skipping the stakes. "We have plenty of time to win a graded stakes with her."

Barring scratches, Elusive Heat will face seven seemingly overmatched rivals, including the Kelly Breen-trained entry of Boom Town Sally and Fools in Love, both of whom are stakes-placed and will be making their 3-year-old debuts.

Sneakin Up, who won her maiden against New York-bred stakes competition at Belmont last fall, and the stakes-placed Sailing Time are also in a field that includes Cassidys Pride, Pretty Miss Trippi, and Devil by Design.

w In the seventh, older turf specialists will square off at 1 1/8 miles in a $75,000 optional claimer. The field includes the Grade 1-placed Equitable, Group 3 European winner Adagio, and the multiple graded-stakes-placed Twilight Meteor.

Equitable has not started since finishing far back in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer on Aug. 16, six weeks after checking home third in the Grade 1 United Nations.

Both Adagio and Twilight Meteor return from long layoffs. Adagio has not started since winning a second-level allowance race here in March, while Twilight Meteor has been idle since finishing third in the Grade 3 Ft. Marcy last April.