02/26/2008 12:00AM

Highweights looking elsewhere


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A.P. Arrow and Daaher have been assigned high weight of 118 pounds for Saturday's Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. But barring a last-second change in plans from trainers Todd Pletcher and Kiaran McLaughlin, neither is expected to start.

Pletcher, who trains three of the 10 horses nominated to the race, said Monday that he intends to run only Fairbanks in the 1 3/16-mile stakes. Fairbanks finished fifth, five lengths behind A.P. Arrow, in the Donn.

Daaher was even more disappointing in the Grade 1 Donn, finishing seventh as the 4-5 favorite, more than 19 lengths behind the winner, Spring at Last. It's a performance that has McLaughlin thinking seriously about looking elsewhere for his next start.

"It would probably make the most sense to run him in the Gulfstream Park Handicap since we're here, but I think I want to take the heat and the racetrack out of the equation," McLaughlin said. "I'm waiting to see the weights in New York, but right now that's the way we're leaning."

McLaughlin was referring to Saturday's 1 1/8-mile Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct.

McLaughlin said Daaher underwent extensive tests following his subpar performance in the Donn, but he could come up with no physical excuse for the dull effort. Daaher, a son of Awesome Again, had won his three previous starts, including the Grade 1 Cigar Mile by 2 1/2 lengths over Eclipse Award champion Midnight Lute.

The defection of the two highweights leaves only eight possible starters for the Gulfstream Park Handicap, including Hunting, who has not raced since finishing third in the Grade 3 Queens County Handicap on Dec. 8. Hunting worked a half-mile in 48 seconds Monday, after which trainer Shug McGaughey said he is also leaning toward passing the race to await the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap on March 15.

"He worked well this morning and I'm on the fence for this race," said McGaughey. "Today was really the first time I've let him run a little in a work. I think he'd be ready to go Saturday, but I also think he can be better if I wait until the next one."

Trainer Allen Jerkens also worked his Gulfstream Park Handicap hopeful Wood Be Willing, who went a leisurely seven furlongs in 1:31.60 on Monday. Wood Be Willing finished a distant second behind a record-setting performance from Commentator earlier in the meet.

"He worked slow but finished up and galloped out strong," Jerkens said of Wood Be Willing. "I'm leaning towards running him Saturday, although I'm not really sure what to expect since he's run the majority of his races on turf or artificial surfaces."

Kiss the Kid, third as a 46-1 outsider in the Donn, and Leonnatus Anteas are the only other confirmed starters for the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

McGaughey: Win, win, and second

McGaughey is coming off a big weekend. On Saturday, he sent out Dancing Forever, who ran second behind Einstein as the longest price on the board in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf. McGaughey then returned the following afternoon and won two races, with the promising 3-year-old Cosmic and the older grass specialist Parading.

"I was as happy with Dancing Forever as if he'd won," said McGaughey. "It was a big step up for him and it looks like he'll fit with that kind the rest of the year, like I hoped he would."

McGaughey said Parading has earned a stakes opportunity following his game win in Sunday's finale.

"It's time to step up and try a stakes with him," said McGaughey. "Cosmic is not Derby-bound after that win, but I think if we space him along, by the time Saratoga rolls around he could be going in that direction."

McGaughey will bring back his top 3-year-old from last season, Sightseeing, in a second-level optional claiming and allowance race on the turf on Friday. Sightseeing, runner-up in the 2007 Wood Memorial, has been idle since finishing fifth against older horses in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap on Sept. 22. He has yet to run on grass.

Elysium Fields impresses Tagg

Like McGaughey, trainer Barclay Tagg was extremely happy with the performance of a runner-up this weekend. The steadily improving Elysium Fields was second-best behind Cool Coal Man in the Fountain of Youth.

"I was very pleased with his effort," Tagg said of Elysium Fields. "He did everything right. He was right there from the start, took the lead where he was supposed to, and battled back when headed by the winner. I couldn't have asked for any more. He did everything perfectly."

Tagg said Elysium Fields has made great strides since the beginning of his 3-year-old campaign.

"He's really growing up," said Tagg. "It's fun and at the same time fascinating to have 3-year-olds and watch the way they mature, especially during the first several months of their 3-year-old year."

Tagg said Elysium Fields was originally his horse for the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and if all goes well over the next five weeks he probably would stick to that plan.