03/29/2007 11:00PM

High Finance questionable for Artax


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There are still another 3 1/2 weeks remaining in the 2007 Gulfstream Park meet, but after this weekend there is only one more race on the stakes schedule, Saturday's $100,000 Artax Handicap. The 7 1/2-furlong dash for older horses lured 17 nominations, led by Park Avenue Ball, High Finance, and Istan.

High Finance, who has not started since finishing fourth behind Keyed Entry in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap on Feb. 3, worked a half-mile for trainer Rick Violette in 48.60 seconds at Palm Meadows on Friday.

"It was just an okay work, and at the moment I'm on the fence whether to run him here or not," Violette said Friday. "In reality I'm probably leaning against it. Our other options for him would be the Commonwealth [at Keeneland] or to just wait and bring him back to New York for an allowance race."

High Finance remains eligible for his third-level allowance condition.

Violette also reported that he has several options for the once-beaten 3-year-old filly Dream Rush, who handed Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna her first defeat in the Old Hat Stakes earlier in the meet.

"We could take her to the Beaumont at Keeneland, the La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, or the Nassau County Breeders' Cup going seven furlongs at Belmont," said Violette.

Violette is also high on Moon's Halo, who captured Friday's $48,000 allowance feature. A 4-year-old son of Halo's Image, Moon's Halo withstood an early pace duel with Carvajal before pulling away to an easy win in his first start since last July in New York, when he captured his entry-level allowance condition. The victory was the third on the day for Rafael Bejarano, who has overtaken John Velazquez for the second spot in the jockey standings behind Cornelio Velasquez.

Vacare returns in Magna Distaff

The Magna Distaff, to be run as the co-featured eighth race on the Sunday card, mirrors its "brother" race, the Lure Stakes, in at least one important respect besides purse, distance, and surface: the $75,000, 1 1/16-mile grass race drew a standout horse making a seasonal debut.

The Lure, which goes two races earlier, has Ashkal Way as a solid favorite, while the Magna Distaff will mark the return of Vacare, who was purchased by Jon and Sarah Kelly after concluding a perfect 3-year-old season with a victory in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup last October at Keeneland.

Vacare, by Lear Fan, came to prominence for owner Robert Lothenbach and trainer Chris Block in Chicago. Following her sale, she was moved by the Kellys into the care of Christophe Clement, whose specialty is turf runners and whose best runners typically spend their winters in obscurity at Payson Park while being readied for major stakes in the summer and fall. Toward that end, the Magna Distaff appears to be a steppingstone for more important events on Vacare's 2007 itinerary.

Vacare, with Edgar Prado to ride, was assigned post 9 in a field of 10 fillies and mares. Her toughest competition could come from Aunt Henny, who has the benefit of a recent race over the Gulfstream turf course, finishing fourth behind Wait a While when making her 4-year-old debut in the March 4 Honey Fox.

Other potential upsetters include Pictavia, a Godolphin runner getting first-time Lasix for her U.S. debut, and Factual Contender, who could be the one to catch when the field turns for home.

Margolis grabs 10th win of meet

One trainer quietly having a big meet is Steve Margolis, who posted his 10th victory when the 10-1 Bernstein'sgoddess upset Friday's fifth race on the turf. Margolis, a former assistant to trainers Stanley Hough and Howie Tesher, is best known for winning the 2003 Breeders' Cup Sprint with the 3-year-old Cajun Beat.

"I'm really happy the way things have gone," Margolis said Friday. "We won eight races last year, so we've already beaten that mark, and I think we have the potential to win a few more before getting out of here later this month."

Margolis is also high on the lightly raced 3-year-old Lightning Larry, who will make his 2007 debut in an entry-level allowance race here next weekend. A son of Yankee Victor owned by Martin Cherry, Lightning Larry had a win and two seconds in four starts during a 2-year-old campaign that concluded Sept. 10 with his fifth-place finish in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. Lightning Larry worked a half-mile in 49.60 here Friday.

"He's got a lot of talent," Margolis said. "He was beaten only a neck by Bold Start in the second race of his career, and I'm looking forward to getting him going again next week."

Margolis said he's expecting three or four more 2-year-olds owned by Cherry to join his barn at Churchill Downs, where he'll have 20 to 25 horses stabled this spring.

Chatain, Jazil work at Palm Meadows

Chatain, who has not started since finishing fourth behind Horse of the Year Invasor in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, worked an easy half-mile in 51.20 at Palm Meadows on Friday. Trainer Angel Penna Jr. has penciled in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on May 28 for Chatain's next major goal.

Jazil, winless since upsetting the 2006 Belmont Stakes, worked five-eighths in 1:01.60 Friday over the main track at Palm Meadows. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Jazil could make his next start on the turf.

* Racing will revert to a five-day-a-week schedule for the remainder of the meet, with Mondays and Tuesdays dark through the conclusion of the session on April 22.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee