05/19/2004 11:00PM

Gin Rummy Champ stuck in second

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MIAMI - Gin Rummy Champ has been a source of frustration to his connections and backers alike over his last three starts, having finished second by a half-length or less on all three occasions.

Frank Gomez, Calder's all-time leading stakes-winning trainer, will attempt to rectify the situation when he equips Gin Rummy Champ with blinkers for the first time in Saturday's $75,000 Simply Majestic Stakes.

Gin Rummy Champ earned the highest Beyer of his career, a 93, when he missed by a neck to Much Respect in a nonwinners-of-three lifetime race on the turf two weeks ago. The effort was even more impressive considering Gin Rummy Champ broke poorly and was facing older horses for the first time in his career.

Gin Rummy Champ has blossomed since Gomez, who won last year's Simply Majestic with The Name's Bond, first switched him to the turf here last December. He won both his maiden and an entry-level allowance race over the local course within an 18-day span, earning a start in Gulfstream Park's Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes. But an early speed duel and competition that included the outstanding 3-year-old turf horse Kitten's Joy added up to a ninth-place finish in his stakes bow.

Abdiel Toribio Jr. will be aboard Gin Rummy Champ for the first time on Saturday, replacing Manoel Cruz, who has opted to ride likely favorite Capias for trainer Bill White.

Capias rallied to an easy four-length victory in an entry-level allowance on May 2 and is another who has flourished since moving to the grass.

"The inside post is my main concern because of his running style," said White. "He's not a deep closer and he doesn't have a lot of speed. I think he's the best horse in this field but he could be vulnerable to the trip. If he had an outside post I'd just let him stay out and take the loss of ground just to keep him clean. But from the rail Manoel is going to have to earn his keep."

The 1 1/16-mile Simply Majestic drew a well-matched field. Charming Jim is entered for dirt only while More Bourb is likely to scratch in favor of an allowance race on Sunday.

Wire Bound ran down Gin Rummy Champ to post a half-length victory at 52-1 making his grass debut on April 26.

Keystone Point is perfect in two starts on turf but must carry high weight of 122 pounds as a result of his victory in the Sophomore Turf Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on April 4.