07/09/2003 11:00PM

McLaughlin takes stakes shot

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has done just about everything right at Belmont Park's spring-summer meet, except win a stakes race.

McLaughlin, who has won with 17 of his 36 starters at the meet, can take care of that in Saturday's $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap.

McLaughlin will saddle State Shinto, a determined winner of a classified allowance race in his last start. He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

State Shinto is among 10 turf males in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, a 1 3/8-mile race. Also entered is Whitmore's Conn, who is seeking his first win since an upset in last year's Bowling Green.

Quest Star, who won the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park this winter for trainer Elliott Walden, is the 117-pound highweight.

On June 25, in his first start since finishing fifth in the Dubai World Cup in March, State Shinto won a 1 1/4-mile grass race by a half-length over a course listed as good. He had a slim lead at the quarter pole, and had to fight off a strong challenge in the stretch from Revved Up.

Richard Migliore rides State Shinto from post 4.

As most handicappers know, it doesn't pay to ignore horses trained by Bobby Frankel. Epicentre makes his stakes debut for Frankel after a win and a second in allowance races. In his last race, Epicentre was second behind Lunar Sovereign, who came back and finished a close third in the Grade 1 United Nations.

Epicentre, who will be ridden by John Velazquez, is suited to the distance. "He wasn't 100 percent for his last race, but he is 100 percent now," Frankel said. "There are some nice horses in this race."

Frankel said that Thompson Rouge "looks like a good horse on paper." Thompson Rouge, who makes his North American debut for trainer Bill Mott, finished second in last year's Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris at Longchamp. He has been training at Saratoga for Mott, who has won the Bowling Green twice.

Macaw is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Manhattan with the addition of blinkers. Gritty Sandie has run some big races on his best day, but is 5 for 42 lifetime.

An intriguing runner is Slew Valley, who finished second in this race two years ago and earned a 113 Beyer, the highest in this field. Following a year-plus layoff, Slew Valley returned to the races in the spring and might be ready to fire his best shot in his third start back.