02/11/2006 1:00AM

Improving Saffir takes next step

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Christophe Clement is hopeful the continuing education of will result in a second consecutive victory Monday, when Saffir takes on eight rivals in a $35,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park. The main event is scheduled to be run at five furlongs on the turf.

Saffir, a $1.8 million son of Unbridled, displayed high speed in his first two career starts but finally gave an indication he has learned to rate when he rallied from off the pace to post a two-length win over first-level allowance runners in his turf debut here Jan. 22. The victory was the second in five starts for Saffir, whom Clement trains for the Brushwood Stable.

"I think he will still improve mentally," said Clement. "He ran very well the other day and has continued to train well since that win. We waited to try him on grass because we were hoping he'd be a successful dirt horse. He has speed, but he's learning to rate and should be able to race from wherever he's comfortable on Monday."

Javier Castellano, who has ridden Saffir to both previous victories, again has the assignment.

Clement will likely have to once again beat his Payson Park neighbor Bill Mott, who sends out the graded-stakes-placed Around the Cape to make his grass debut in Monday's headliner.

gained notoriety when he finished second behind Lost in the Fog here a year ago in the Grade 2 Swale Stakes. He has not started since finishing fourth in a second-level allowance race at Belmont Park on June 11. Around the Cape is a son of Carson City out of Song of Africa, who was a minor stakes winner on grass during her racing career.

Terrific Challenge also figures to be a major player and is coming off a near miss under similar conditions in Calder's Lola Bella Stakes Jan. 2. Terrific Challenge contested all the pace in the five-furlong Lola Bella before succumbing by a neck to Summer Service. In her previous start, Terrific Challenge rallied from just off the lead to win the Bergen County Stakes on the grass at The Meadowlands.

Omaggio is the winningest member of the field on grass but will be turning back in distance and stepping up in class after being claimed here for $32,000 by trainer Wayne Catalano 11 days earlier.