08/28/2003 12:00AM

May Gator, finally getting some breaks, choice in Dade Turf


Steve Flint was right after all.

Flint insisted several months ago that May Gator wasn't so much a hanger as a filly who simply went through a patch of tough luck. And, indeed, after posting a seemingly endless streak of second- and third-place finishes, May Gator broke through with two wins from her last four starts. She might very well make it 3 for 5 as the probable favorite Saturday in the $75,000 Dade Turf Classic at Ellis Park.

Before May Gator notched a long-overdue win in a May 23 allowance at Churchill Downs, Flint had said that he still had faith in the filly. A subsequent victory in her most recent race, the restricted Waya Stakes at Saratoga, further validated his claim that May Gator "has had the desire, but just not the luck," over the last year or so.

"Those were just good fillies that beat her in a lot of those races," Flint said.

May Gator, a 4-year-old Green Alligator filly whom Flint claimed last year for $30,000 on behalf of his main clients - Bert, Elaine, and Richard Klein - is one of eight fillies and mares entered in the 1 1/8-mile Dade Turf. With Willie Martinez to ride, May Gator figures to be on or near the lead, having led throughout the off-the-turf Waya when defeating a scratch-depleted field.

The likely main challenger to May Gator is Beret, a stretch-running filly who finished third behind Owsley and Bien Nicole two starts back in the Modesty at Arlington Park. Bag of Stars and Madame Cerito are other viable contenders.

One of the expected favorites for the Dade Turf was Silent Stream, but trainer Shirley Greene said Thursday that the mare's blood count "was a little off, so we're going to have to pass."

The Dade Turf gets its name from the Ellis history books. From 1922 until 1955, the track was known as Dade Park, named for A. Barrett Dade, one of the track's seven founding members.

The Dade Turf is the sister race to the $75,000 Tri-State Handicap, which helps to close out the meet Monday.

* As the 41-day meet at Ellis Park nears its Monday closing, one of the recurring storylines is whether Kim Hammond can hold her lead and become the first female to win a training title in the 82-year history of the Henderson, Ky., track.

Into the Thursday card, and with just five programs remaining, Hammond had saddled 14 winners, three more than her closest pursuers, Joe Cain and Merrill Scherer.

* Leading jockey Rafael Bejarano, who will be away Saturday to ride at Calder, almost surely will not surpass the Ellis record for most wins at a meet, but that's only because he hasn't had sufficient opportunity.

Through Wednesday (36 programs), Bejarano had ridden 71 winners. The Ellis record was set in 1986 by Mike McDowell, who rode 89 winners at a 59-day meet.

* Longtime Kentucky racing official Mark Hoard, who most recently served as stakes coordinator at Ellis, has accepted a new position as a web content editor for the Churchill Downs Simulcast Network.

* Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., begins its fall meet Wednesday with a first post of 7 p.m. Eastern.