12/22/2006 12:00AM

Lisa M gets fresh start


MIAMI - Trainer David Kassen won his first stakes race at Calder in 1984, when he took a division of the W. L. McKnight Handicap with Jack Slade. Twenty-two years later, he returns looking for his second Calder stakes win when he sends out the promising filly Lisa M in the Tropical Park Oaks on Jan. 1.

Lisa M is already a graded stakes winner, having upset the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie with a last-to-first victory at 35-1. But after a couple of disappointing efforts to close out her 2-year-old campaign - a 13th in the Grade 2 Alcibiades at Keeneland and a ninth in the Grade 3 Pocahontas at Churchill - Kassen will switch her to grass for the first time to begin her 3-year-old season in the Tropical Oaks.

"She's out of a Lord at War mare, and her mother liked the grass," said Kassen of Lisa M's pedigree, which includes two-time Grade 1 turf winner John's Call in the second dam. "She had a bad trip in the Alcibiades and really no excuse at all in her last start at Churchill, although she was giving indications even in the morning that she might be a little stressed out at the time. So I just stopped on her and gave her a little break before we came down here."

Lisa M has been burning up the main track at Gulfstream Park since her arrival in south Florida, turning in a couple of bullet works, including six furlongs in 1:11.60 Wednesday.

In the Lassie, Lisa M rallied from as far back as 16 lengths to beat Sutra by a nose. The win was flattered when Sutra came right back to win the Frizette.

Kassen is certainly no stranger to south Florida and especially Gulfstream Park, where he will stable this winter after spending the last two meets at the Palm Meadows training center.

"I started coming here as a rider in 1957 and then as a trainer from 1972 until 1988," Kassen said. "But I quit coming for 16 years after they cut me back from my regular allotment of 29 stalls to only 12 in 1989. I went to Oaklawn for a while and then New Orleans, but I couldn't stand the weather up there any more and decided to come back to Florida again a few years ago."

Nicks also returning to track

Another familiar face back on the grounds, after a much shorter absence, is trainer Ralph Nicks, who spent many a winter at Gulfstream as the top assistant to trainer Bill Mott. Nicks started his own stable three years ago and will have stalls of his own at Gulfstream for the first time in 2007. Interestingly, his barn will be adjacent to Mott's along millionaire's row.

"Bill and I have stayed close ever since I left the barn, and he was over here peeping in and checking up on me the other morning," Nicks said with a laugh.

Nicks will have 12 horses in Florida this winter while keeping another 22 at the Fair Grounds. Among the local contingent is Sea Siren, a Grade 3-winning filly who will be among the top contenders in the Grade 3 Stage Door Betty Handicap on Dec. 30.

Sea Siren led throughout to post a four-length decision in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron on Sept. 2, but she was badly beaten in her last start, finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill on Nov. 23.

"She had no excuse in her last start," said Nicks. "I'm just kind of throwing the race out. She can do that occasionally, but she worked good here the other morning, and I'm looking for her to run well at Calder."

Sea Siren, who will have Edgar Prado aboard for the first time, will face Grade 1 winner Take D' Tour in the Stage Door Betty.

Gulfstream to install more slots

The Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Gulfstream Park have announced plans to become partners in the installation of 700 more slot machines at the track. Gulfstream opened its casino with 516 slots last month.

The additional machines, which will be installed in the All-In room on the south side of the first floor of the grandstand, are expected to be operational "sometime in February," according to Sam Gordon, President of the FHBPA.

"The added revenues from the 700 new machines will significantly improve the purses for horsemen during the 2008 race meet," said Gordon. "This is a great example of horsemen and racetrack management working together."

In anticipation of the revenues accrued from the original 516 machines, overnight purses were raised approximately 18 percent across the board for the 2007 Gulfstream meet, which opens Jan. 3.

* Jazil, who has not started since winning the Belmont Stakes on June 10, worked five furlongs in 1:03 at Palm Meadows on Thursday. It was his first work since he arrived in south Florida earlier this month.