08/11/2003 11:00PM

McLaughlin's fresh faces dangerous


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It's anyone's guess if there will be turf racing at Saratoga on Thursday. Twenty-one grass races during the first 18 days of the 36-day meet were transferred to the main track because of poor weather.

Clear skies are forecast for Thursday, but there was a threat of rain for Wednesday. Three grass races are carded for Thursday, including a second-level allowance race for 3-year-olds and up that goes as the eighth on the card. The mile race on the inner turf drew 10 horses, plus two also-eligibles and three main-track-only entries.

Alnahaam and Banned in Boston, who are coupled, will be making their first starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who has won with 33 percent of his runners this year. McLaughlin bought Alnahaam in Dubai, and Banned in Boston was previously trained in Kentucky by his father-in-law, John Hennig. Hennig and owner R.D. Hubbard wanted the 3-year-old Banned in Boston to run at Saratoga, and McLaughlin was happy to accommodate them.

Alnahaam hasn't run since Jan. 23 when he finished seventh in a dirt sprint at Nad al Sheba. His last win came at a mile on the turf in January 2002. A 5-year-old, Alnahaam receives first-time Lasix and will be ridden by McLaughlin's go-to rider, Richard Migliore, from post 5.

"We bought him at the same sale as Falconer, who finished second here [Sunday]," McLaughlin said. "I think [Alnahaam] is a pretty nice horse on the turf, but we'll have to see if he is at this level."

Banned in Boston, who drew post 10 and will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, has a win and a second in two turf starts. He was a seven-length winner in his turf debut in a mile race at Churchill Downs in June.

"With his speed, the post is a big negative," McLaughlin said. "He'll have to break sharply and get over on the turn."

The other contenders are Celtic Memories and Titanium Ghost, who is 2 for 2 in grass races at a mile. Wave the Sword should be primed for a top effort in his third race back from a layoff.

Irish Road, trained by Todd Pletcher, looks tough if this race is run on dirt.

If the $50,000 race is switched to the dirt it will be run at seven furlongs, according to a new directive from the racing secretary's office that went into effect on Wednesday. Previously, mile turf races transferred to the dirt were run at nine furlongs.