12/04/2003 12:00AM

French Charmer consistent


MIAMI - French Charmer was a high-priced claimer when he arrived here from New York 13 months ago. Saturday he will be the starting highweight and among the favorites in the $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap, which shares top billing with its filly counterpart, the $100,000 My Charmer Handicap, on a 12-race card at Calder. Both races carry Grade 3 status and will be decided at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

French Charmer has won his last four starts, and six of seven dating back to last Dec. 27. Trained by Harry Benson, French Charmer suffered his only setback during the past year in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream on March 9 and comes into the Tropical Turf off sharp wins in handicaps at Laurel and Calder.

As usual, the stretch-running French Charmer will need some help with the pace, but there appears to be sufficient speed in the race with Millennium Dragon, Irish Colonial, and Last Stand among the competition.

Millennium Dragon set the pace before weakening late to finish third in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 1 and seems to do his best on the front end. Neal McLaughlin, assistant to his brother, Kiaran McLaughlin, said he is looking for a little different trip on Saturday.

"I'd really like to see him get covered up in second or third rather than be on the lead again," said McLaughlin.

If that should be the case, Last Stand could be in position to steal the race despite coming off the poorest effort of his career at Keeneland. In his previous start, Last Stand finished third behind repeat winners Hard Buck and Gretchen's Star in the Kentucky Cup Mile at Kentucky Downs.

"He just didn't handle the turf at Keeneland that day," said trainer David Fawkes.

Last Stand is perfect in two tries over the Calder turf and has turned in a couple of sharp works over his home course since returning from Kentucky.

Del Mar Show, who finished second, a neck before Millennium Dragon in the Knickerbocker, may actually go off the slight favorite in the Tropical Turf. A multiple graded stakes winner last year, Del Mar Show is just 1 for 6 in 2003 but is coming off his best effort of the season and is part of Bill Mott's potent stable.