06/30/2003 11:00PM

McLaughlin joins stakes scene

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ELMONT, N.Y. - For as much success as Kiaran McLaughlin has had at the Belmont Park meet, the trainer has yet to saddle a horse in a stakes race.

That will change when McLaughlin sends out at least three horses in three of the six stakes that will be run during the three-day holiday weekend.

McLaughlin's starters are Northern Rock for Friday's $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap and Aslaaf and Trademark for Saturday's $100,000-added Poker Handicap. In the wake of the defections of Dynever and Midas Eyes from Sunday's $150,000 Dwyer, McLaughlin is giving serious consideration to running Albaaz, a 9 1/4-length winner of a first-level allowance race here last month.

Northern Rock, who will be ridden by Richard Migliore in the seven-furlong Tom Fool, scored a front-running victory in a classified allowance race against three rivals in his North American debut June 12 at Belmont. Northern Rock, who was making his first start for McLaughlin, won the 1 1/16-mile race by six lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 113. A 5-year-old gelding, Northern Rock had been competing in Dubai, where race-day medication is not permitted, and raced with Lasix for the first time.

"He is a bleeder," said McLaughlin, who has won with 13 of his 24 starters at the meet through Sunday. "After we worked him the first time we went to scope him, and we didn't even get the scope in when he started bleeding out of his nostril.

Trademark was running in Dubai for trainer Sateesh Seemar earlier this year and will be making his first start for McLaughlin in the Grade 3 Poker, a mile grass race. Trademark raced against the talented turf mare Ipi Tombe twice earlier this year at Nad Al Sheba. In one of those starts, a listed race, Trademark finished third, beaten 5 1/2 lengths by Ipi Tombe.

On Tuesday, Trademark worked a half-mile in 48.26 seconds over Belmont's main track.

McLaughlin's other Poker entrant, Aslaaf, will be making his first start of the year. He was narrowly defeated in the Grade 3 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap at Hawthorne last November.

McLaughlin would have had another starter this weekend in Abreeze for Saturday's $500,000 Suburban Handicap, but the gelding spiked a fever several days ago.

McLaughlin hopes to have Abreeze ready for the $300,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap Aug. 16. Last year, Abreeze finished second to Evening Attire in that race.

Mineshaft, Volponi share top burden

Grade 1 winners Mineshaft and Volponi, who will meet for the first time in the Grade 1 Suburban, have each been assigned 121 pounds as the co-highweights.

Others expected for the 1 1/4-mile Suburban are Evening Attire (120), Harlan's Holiday (120), Dollar Bill (115), Hero's Tribute (115), and Judge's Case (113).

Dynever out of Dwyer

Trainer Christophe Clement confirmed Tuesday that Dynever would not run in the Dwyer. On Monday, Clement said he would work Dynever on Tuesday even though he didn't plan on running the horse in the Dwyer. Clement changed his mind and didn't work Dynever.

"He is well and healthy," Clement said. "I just believe he needs more time in between races."

In his last start, Dynever finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes.

Dress to Thrill heads New York 'Cap

Dress to Thrill, a Grade 1 winner on the turf for Clement, was assigned 120 pounds as the highweight for Friday's $250,000 New York Handicap. Clement said Dress to Thrill and Mariensky (117 pounds) were his likely candidates to run in the Grade 2 New York. Clement said Sixty Seconds also was a possibility for the 1 1/4-mile New York, but he didn't plan on running more than two horses in the race.

Other probable starters are Riskaverse (119), Lilac Queen (117), Owsley (117), Snow Dance (116), and Pertuisane (115).

Belong to Sea out for fourth straight

One of the first stakes winners trained by Lisa Lewis was the fleet-footed filly American Royale, who won the Prioress Stakes in 1992.

On Friday, Lewis will saddle one of the main contenders in this year's Grade 1 Prioress, Belong to Sea.

The undefeated Belong to Sea will shoot for her fourth straight victory in the Grade 1, $200,000 Prioress for 3-year-old fillies. Belong to Sea won the Grade 3 Miss Preakness at Pimlico on May 15 by a head over Chimichurri. After that race, Lewis decided to await the Prioress with Belong to Sea.

"She put a lot of effort into that race, and I wanted to give her plenty of time to recover," Lewis said. "She is an easy filly to train, which makes it easy to put a little space in between her races."

The six-furlong Prioress is attracting a tough field. Expected to join Belong to Sea are Chimichurri, Cyber Secret, Forever Partners, House Party, In Secure, Princess V., Randaroo, and Wild Snitch.

Lusteg joins Lewis outfit

After nearly 11 years as trainer John Kimmel's assistant, Loretta Lusteg has left that job for the same position at Lewis's barn.

Lusteg, who went to work for Kimmel on Nov. 1, 1992, began working for Lewis on Tuesday.

Lusteg said she left her job with Kimmel because she wanted to work at Saratoga for the upcoming meet as she had done in years past. For the first time this year, Kimmel sent horses to Saratoga before the meet began and employed an assistant, Patrice Bellet, to oversee that division. With Bellet in place at Saratoga, Kimmel needed Lusteg to remain at Belmont with 30 horses during the Saratoga meet.

"She's been a good assistant; we had a lot of success during our time together," Kimmel said. "She really wanted to be up at Saratoga. This is the first year I sent a division to Saratoga where I needed her to stay down here."

Lusteg said she enjoyed her tenure with Kimmel and would miss her co-workers, but was looking forward to beginning a new chapter in her life.

"I'm very excited to be here with Lisa," Lusteg said.

Kimmel hired Steve Jordan, who had been training horses at Delaware Park and was a former assistant to Roger Laurin, to replace Lusteg at Belmont.

- additional reporting by David Grening