03/27/2002 12:00AM

Harlan's Holiday back to track


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Harlan's Holiday got back to serious business Wednesday for the first time since his victory in the $1 million Florida Derby on March 16, working five furlongs in a slow 1:03.40 seconds at Gulfstream Park. He is scheduled to make his next start in Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes on April 13, which will be his final Kentucky Derby prep.

With jockey Edgar Prado aboard, Harlan's Holiday was never asked to extend himself in the drill, which was the second-slowest of 11 five-furlong works on Wednesday's tab. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:17.80.

"I told Edgar I didn't want him to go real fast, and while the work was a bit slower than I wanted, I'd rather he went too slow than too fast, since this was just a maintenance work," said trainer Ken McPeek. "His next two works will be more vital."

Harlan's Holiday, who avenged two earlier losses at the hands of Booklet with his win in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, will be flown to Churchill Downs on Sunday along with McPeek's other Derby contender, Repent.

"He'll work again at Churchill next Wednesday and again on the Tuesday prior to the Blue Grass," said McPeek of Harlan's Holiday. "We still have a lot of time before his next start."

Repent is scheduled to work here Saturday prior to shipping to Kentucky the following day. He will have his final Derby prep in the Illinois Derby on April 6.

Booklet also Kentucky-bound

Booklet, who held off Harlan's Holiday to win both the Holy Bull and Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes before finishing fourth in the Florida Derby, will have his final south Florida work on Saturday. He will also leave for Kentucky on Sunday.

"I'm keeping Booklet here a little longer than I did Monarchos last year," said trainer John Ward. "I got [Monarchos] to Kentucky a few days earlier and ran into a cold spell, which cost us a few days training, although I guess in the long run it didn't hurt me. I always get a little nervous when taking horses from here into that climate."

Booklet will go directly to Keeneland to prepare for the Blue Grass. Last year, Ward shipped Hero's Tribute to Churchill Downs before running him at Keeneland in the Blue Grass, and Hero's Tribute finished seventh.

"I'm not going to make the same mistake twice," Ward said.

Ward said Booklet needs to run a big race in the Blue Grass to earn himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

"He needs to show me his race in the Florida Derby was a throwout," said Ward.

St. Damien to get more time

McPeek also said he has withdrawn St. Damien from consideration for Saturday's Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap.

"He's got a little pressure in one ankle and I wanted to give him some extra time," said McPeek.

St. Damien, second behind Distilled in the 2001 Illinois Derby, easily won a second-level allowance race in his 2002 debut earlier this month.

A field of five is now likely for the Gulfstream Park Handicap. It figures to include Red Bullet, Hal's Hope, Sir Bear, Mongoose, and Bonus Pack.

Trainer Tom Proctor said he will run Bonus Pack if only four other horses are entered for the Gulfstream Park Handicap. With only five horses in the race, Bonus Pack would earn back his entry fee even if he were to finish last.

Bonus Pack finished second, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Saint Damien, on March 14 and would be making his stakes debut if he runs on Saturday.

Azeff benefit a home run

John Ward was among the spectators at a Tuesday evening softball game, a benefit for his assistant trainer Yvonne Azeff, who was seriously injured in a training mishap here on Jan. 26. More than $2,300 was raised for Azeff during the game, which saw the jockeys defeat the media 13-6. More than $700 of that total was contributed by Megan Connolly of the Gulfstream Park communications department, who held the winning ticket in a drawing and immediately donated her winnings back to Azeff.

"Yvonne knew about the game and said if it was up to her she'd have been there," said Ward. "She's progressing extremely well, and the first thing she asked me when I spoke to her the other day was when she could go back to work. The benefit game was a nice deal. And it was also amazing to me how coordinated the jockeys were off their horses. And that they can really get around without their agents."

Among the jockeys who participated were Mike McCarthy, Cornelio Velasquez, Jose Ferrer, Dean Butler, Eibar Coa, Rene Douglas, Roger Velez, Julio Garcia, Johnny Rojas, Charlene Hunt and Angel Castillo.

Among those instrumental in organizing the event were Mike Tanner, Michele Blanco, Frank Carlson, and chaplain Tom La Pointe. Gulfstream's president and general manager, Scott Savin, served as the home plate umpire.