03/01/2008 1:00AM

Malibu Moonshine romps; Daaher 3rd


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Instead of a confidence boost, the connections of Daaher had their confidence further shaken Saturday when their Grade 1-winning colt finished a distant third to Malibu Moonshine in the $76,450 Stymie Handicap at Aqueduct.

Malibu Moonshine, the longest shot in a scratched-reduced four-horse field, rallied past Temporary Saint inside the eighth pole to win the Stymie by 4 1/2 lengths. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Daaher, the 2-5 favorite, and four more lengths back to Evening Attire.

The 6 3/4-length defeat for Daaher - last year's Grade 1 Cigar Mile winner - comes on the heels of a 19 1/4-length loss in the Donn Handicap last month at Gulfstream and virtually takes Daaher out of consideration for a trip to Dubai.

"We'll look him over and re-group," said a dejected trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who noted that Daaher had surgery on his right knee as a 2-year-old.

Daaher, under Mike Luzzi, had to work hard to secure the lead from Temporary Saint, running an opening quarter in 22.26 seconds. He opened up a two-length lead after a half-mile in 46.81 seconds but was soon tackled again by Temporary Saint, under C.C. Lopez.

Malibu Moonshine, under Mario Pino, moved within 2 1/2 lengths of the lead at the three-eighths pole, before tipping out for the stretch drive. As Daaher began to lug in at the three-sixteenths pole, Temporary Saint assumed the lead, but Malibu Moonshine rallied powerfully past him to record the easy victory. Malibu Moonshine, a 6-year-old son of Malibu Moon owned by Winning Move Stable and trained by Gary Contessa, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.19 and returned $31.40.

"When I saw those orange blinkers range up at the three-eighths pole I thought holy [cow], we have a shot," Contessa said. "And he had been training phenomenal. We were third in a Grade 1 [Suburban] and this horse has been a bridesmaid to many good horses. He's a good horse and today was his time."

The victory was one of three wins on the card for Pino.

Luzzi, the rider of Daaher, said he knew he was in trouble at the three-eighths pole.

"I was trying to motivate him again, but he was lugging in so bad, it was hard to push him forward," Luzzi said.

While McLaughlin wasn't happy about Daaher having to run a first quarter in 22.26 seconds he said "he should have been able to run with those."