02/23/2008 12:00AM

If El Poco Diablo likes turf, it's over


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The key to picking the winner of Monday's $41,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park, carded at five furlongs on the turf, may come down to predicting whether El Poco Diablo will handle the grass. And what better way to answer that question than to go right to the source and ask trainer Tim Hamm how he thinks his horse will fare in his grass debut?

"We're hoping he'll like it," was about all Hamm could offer handicappers seeking a solution to the problem. "He's as good as he's ever been right now, and this looks like a pretty good spot if he does handle the grass."

El Poco Diablo finished second and third in his last two starts against similar opposition going six furlongs on the main track.

"He caught a bear in Kiaran McLaughlin's horse [Lucky Island] last time," Hamm said.

El Poco Diablo paired up career-best Beyer Speed Figures of 93 in those races - numbers that make him several lengths the best of this field if he can transfer that same form to the grass.

"He is coming back a little quick Monday off a hard effort, which is also a bit of a concern," said Hamm, who made a name for himself here in 2000 with graded stakes placed

runners Rhythmean and Megacles. "But he has done well since that race, and he's sitting right at a point where he can really do some good."

If he handles the turf, of course.

Trainer Ken McPeek is facing a similar dilemma with Gran Prospector, who also returns on just nine days' rest after finishing far behind El Poco Diablo on Feb. 15. Gran Prospector earned a career-best 88 Beyer winning his maiden in game fashion over a

sloppy track nearly five weeks earlier, but he, too, will be making his debut on turf Monday.

Can't Stop Me and Secret Stocks are among the proven turf commodities in the field who figure as key contenders, along with Deadly Aim and Cloud King.

Can't Stop Me finished second and third under optional claiming conditions to close out his 3-year-old campaign at Calder before returning to the main track to finish third in his local debut on Jan. 20.

Secret Stocks steps up in company after missing by a neck against high-priced conditioned claimers while making his second lifetime start on grass earlier in the session.