01/06/2010 12:00AM

McLaughlin has quality pair for sprint stakes

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is hoping to get his meet off to a fast start on Saturday when he sends out Past the Point in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector and brings back world traveler Elusive Warning from an 18-month vacation in the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint.

The Mr. Prospector and Turf Sprint are two of the five sprint stakes that make up Saturday's Gulfstream Park Sprint Showcase program. The 10-race card will also include the Spectacular Bid for 3-year-olds, its filly counterpart the Old Hat, and the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl for older fillies and mares.

Past the Point was transferred to McLaughlin's barn from Eoin Harty following his second-place finish in Aqueduct's seven furlong, Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap on Oct. 31. The 6-year-old turned in his most noteworthy performance during the summer of 2008, extending Curlin before finishing second in the Grade 1 Woodward.

"He's kind of a one-run sprinter, a stalking type, and probably better suited to seven furlongs than six," said McLaughlin, who added he intends to run Past the Point in the seven-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint on Feb. 13 if he runs well Saturday.

Elusive Warning has not started since finishing sixth at Ascot in the Group 2 Summer Stakes in July of 2008. In his previous try, he finished second behind Diamond Stripes in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile. He also won a Group 3 race at Nad Al Sheba earlier that winter. Elusive Warning, a son of Elusive Quality, is undefeated in the United States, having launched his career with a pair of easy victories in New York early in 2007.

"He did a lot of traveling back and forth to Dubai and then had an eye problem, which is the reason he's been off so long, but we need to get him started, and he has been training well," said McLaughlin. "They are calling for some showers Saturday, and I'll only run him if the race stays on the turf."

The Mr. Prospector drew a field of nine topped by Munnings, who will make his first start since finishing third behind Kodiak Kowboy and Fabulous Strike in the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Oct. 3. A multiple Grade 2 winner, Munnings figures to be the favorite over a field that also includes Custom for Carlos.

Elusive Warning will have his work cut out coming off the bench in the Turf Sprint and facing the likes of the undefeated Hockeythehayman, multiple stakes winner Big Push, and the much-improved Hatfield.

Score two for smaller outfits

Four of Wednesday's first six races were won by trainers with some of the largest outfits in the area, including Wesley Ward, Eddie Plesa Jr., Todd Pletcher, and Ken McPeek. But there is still a chance for the little guy in this business as trainers Marcus Vitali and Benny Stutts proved by registering upsets in the afternoon's fourth and sixth races, respectively.

Vitali, who shipped to south Florida following the conclusion of the Suffolk Downs meet in November, sent out Jazz Nation under jockey P.J. Lydon to capture the fourth event for bottom-level claimers.

Stutts, who did such a marvelous job orchestrating the career of the multiple graded stakes winner Smooth Air before the horse was transferred to Chad Brown last summer, won the sixth race with the 19-1 Lemon Punch in a tight photo over McLaughlin's Big Stick. Lemon Punch, like Smooth Air, is owned by the Mount Joy Stable.