12/23/2006 12:00AM

Gaff snaps out of his slump


Gaff's post-Dubai hangover finally subsided on Saturday at Fair Grounds, where he won the $75,000 Bonapaw Stakes by a half-length.

Kentucky-bred Gaff began his career in Europe, but came quickly to hand when returned to the U.S. and dirt racing in the second half of 2005. He won consecutive allowance races - the first at Belmont Park, the second at Churchill Downs - before winning the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream by a neck last Jan. 7. That was Gaff's last trip to the winner's circle until Saturday.

In March, Gaff went to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen, finished fifth, and didn't look like the same horse when he came home. His low point was a 13th-place finish in the Smile Sprint Handicap in July, and on opening day at Fair Grounds he was seventh of 10 in the Thanksgiving Handicap.

But this time, the old Gaff showed up. Breaking sharply under Donnie Meche, Gaff raced on the lead outside Mystery Classic, the two cutting out fractions of 21.89 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.39 to the half. Mystery Classic was the first to cave, fading in the final furlong, but Gaff ran on, holding off late runs from Smalltown Slew, who finished second, and Venomous, who was third.

Gaff, trained by Scott Blasi, paid $16.20 to win, and was timed in 1:03.47 for 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt. The Bonapaw was rained off grass, and four horses were scratched from it.