01/27/2006 12:00AM

Honor in War in for long run

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Paul McGee has been itching to stretch Honor in War out beyond 1 1/4 miles for several years, but the circumstances were just never right to make the move. The opportunity finally arises at Gulfstream Park on Sunday, when Honor in War will be among the favorites in the $75,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap, a Grade 3 race at 1 3/8 miles on the turf.

has cycled back to peak form following a seven-month layoff during the middle of his 2005 campaign. A 7-year-old son of Lord at War, he comes into the Mac Diarmida having won 3 of his last 4 starts, including the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes here on Jan. 8 when he overcame a rough trip to post a game decision over Hotstufanthensome.

Honor in War, a Grade 1 winner at 4, won the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap going 1 1/4 miles in 2003, and McGee sees no reason why he shouldn't be able to handle even more distance.

"I've been anxious to see if he'll go longer, and frankly I don't see why he shouldn't," said McGee. "He's bred for it, and if he shows us Sunday he can handle it, we'll probably look to run him back in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup later in the meet."

Honor in War will carry 118 pounds in the Mac Diarmida, one more than both Silverfoot and Hotstufanthensome. The race drew a full field of 12 plus two also-eligibles.

is a proven long-distance specialist with a resume that includes victories last season in the 1 1/8-mile Louisville Handicap and 1 1/2-mile Kentucky Cup Turf, both Grade 3 events. He has not started since finishing fifth in Calder's Grade 2 W.L. Mcknight Handicap on Dec. 17.

"We've got to get him out there and to move earlier," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "The stretch is a short one here, and they don't come back to you a whole lot. He's doing great, and this race is spaced just right."

was beaten a neck by Honor in War in the Ft. Lauderdale, and he will also be testing the distance for the first time on Sunday. The 6-year-old will be saddled by trainer Nathan W. Sinclair, who has taken over for Norman Pointer while Pointer recovers from a recent illness.

Other key contenders include Rousing Victory, We Can Seek, the Todd Pletcher-trained pair of Ramazutti and Go Deputy, and the Group 1-winning filly Lune D'Or.