07/03/2001 12:00AM

Mcdab a new horse since surgery


After a pair of poor performances in his first two starts in this country, Mcdab has turned in two excellent efforts this summer at Hollywood Park. A speed horse who is better on turf than dirt, Mcdab led from start to finish in a first-level allowance race on May 12, then just failed to last when second in a second-level allowance race on June 7.

He has improved, according to trainer Carla Gaines, because he now relaxes better in his races. "He's settled a lot since he got here," said Gaines, who has sent out Mcdab four times since his arrival from Ireland last fall. "We spend a lot of time with him. But the biggest deal is we gelded him. That helped a lot."

The difference has been profound. Mcdab was beaten a total of 16 lengths in his first two races in this country. Since being gelded, he owns a win and a second. And on Thursday at Hollywood Park, he should be favored in the day's feature, a $51,000 second-level allowance going a mile on turf.

Mcdab drew the rail in a field of seven that has six betting interests.

The Thoroughbred Corporation-owned entry of Merhy and Riverside, both trained by John Shirreffs, should be the second choice in the wagering. But they all will have to catch Mcdab, who appears to be the lone speed in a field otherwise comprising mid-pack runners and deep closers.

The card is a typical midweek offering at Hollywood, with a pair of maiden claiming races, four claiming races, and one optional claiming race among the eight races. But it could be of significant interest should the pick six carry over from Wednesday's card. No one hit it on Sunday, producing a mammoth $691,095 carryover entering Wednesday's program.

Regardless of whether there is a two-day carryover, Mcdab will be a major player on exotic tickets. His improved form, the likely race shape, and the shorter distance all are points in his favor.

Mcdab, according to Gaines, is a "high-strung horse" who heads to the track with the first set each morning.

"He spends a lot of time with the pony. He takes long walks on the track before he gallops," Gaines said.

Merhy and Riverside both are returning from layoffs. Merhy has not raced since April 2000. Though he usually needs a race before being at his best, Merhy is 2 for 2 on the Hollywood turf. Riverside came off a 14-month layoff to beat a first-level allowance field in March, but has not run since. He usually runs well fresh.