03/25/2002 12:00AM

Mongoose joins Gulf Cap lineup

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer H. James Bond has confirmed Mongoose as a definite starter for Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, which now appears likely to draw four Grade 1 winners. Along with Mongoose, winner of the Donn Handicap earlier in the meet, the field for the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap will also include Red Bullet, Sir Bear, and Hal's Hope.

Bond, who won the 1999 and 2000 runnings of the Gulfstream Park Handicap with Behrens, made his decision to run Mongoose after the horse worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 Sunday morning at Payson Park. Bond also assessed the weight assignments for the race.

Mongoose will carry 115 pounds on Saturday, two less than co-highweights Sir Bear and Red Bullet. Hal's Hope gets in at 113 pounds.

"He worked great," said Bond. "The weights were my main concern because it's a long year and if you carry too much now then all of a sudden you look up at the board and you're carrying 120 or 121 pounds by the middle of the year."

Mongoose has won his last four starts, including the nine-furlong Donn, when he outlasted Red Bullet by a neck for his first Grade 1 victory. He is one of three older handicap runners Bond currently has in training at Payson. Ubiquity and Pleasant Breeze are the others.

Pleasant Breeze, who finished second behind Sir Bear in last year's Gulfstream Park Handicap, worked six furlongs in 1:17 on Saturday and is primed to launch his 2002 campaign.

"He's ready to go," Bond said. "I just need to pick out a spot for him. There's still a chance I might run him here this meet. His papers [foal] are still in the office."

Legislator takes scenic route home

Bond had some anxious moments before watching his top 3-year-old, Legislator, draw off to an easy victory in Sunday's finale under preliminary allowance conditions on the turf.

Legislator, an easy winner of his career debut on grass on Jan. 9 and a slow-starting third when switched to the dirt five weeks later, appeared en route to an easy win Sunday before bearing out very badly leaving the final bend. But once straightened away by jockey Edgar Prado, Legislator easily drew away from his 11 overmatched rivals.

"That's just him," said Bond. "He's a little flaky and needs experience. I might come back with him in a stakes although I'm not sure when or where just yet."

Sir Bear preps for comeback

Sir Bear had his final tuneup for the Gulfstream Park Handicap on Monday, working five furlongs at Calder in 1:02 before galloping out three quarters of a mile in 1:16 under exercise rider Felicity Waugh. Eibar Coa will be aboard the defending Gulfstream Park Handicap champion on Saturday.

"He just needed to stretch his legs," said trainer Ralph Ziadie. "He's trained very well since his last start."

Sir Bear launched his 9-year-old campaign with a hard-fought victory over Red Bullet and Hal's Hope in the Grade 3 Skip Away Handicap on Jan. 12.

Equality points for Aventura

Trainer Graham Motion has confirmed Tampa Bay Derby winner Equality as a definite starter for the inaugural running of the $250,000 Aventura Stakes on April 6.

became a legitimate Kentucky Derby candidate after registering an easy victory in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby. The victory was the second straight for the lightly raced Equality, who won his previous start under allowance conditions by 16 lengths.

"There are pros and cons to running in the Aventura but the pros outweighed the cons," said Motion. "First of all the race is here, which makes it easier on him than shipping out. Secondly, if he were to run big and we considered the Kentucky Derby it would give him four weeks to recover. If we ran him in one of the other preps, like the Blue Grass or Wood, it would be the hardest race of his career and give us only three weeks instead of four before the Derby."

The only downside as far as Motion sees is the fact the Aventura will be run at 1 1/16 miles and not 1 1/8 as most of the major Derby preps.

"He's already run several times this winter so I don't think turning back to 1 1/16 miles at this point will make much difference in getting him to go 1 1/4 miles. He's by Peaks and Valleys and I'm inclined to believe he will get that far."

Jockey Ramon Dominguiz agrees with Motion.

"Ramon told me he didn't think distance would be an issue after his race in Tampa," Motion said.

Motion is also under no pressure from owner Josephine Abercrombie to get Equality to the Derby.

"We don't have to run in the Derby," said Motion. "If he takes us there that's fine. But Mrs. Abercrombie wants to do what's right by the horse and that's the main reason he'll run here next. It's the most sensible step and what's best for him at this point."

* Trainer Christophe Clement, who won his fourth straight Orchid Handicap on Sunday with Julie Jalouse, had another streak snapped over the weekend when Ungoverned finished off the board in Saturday's fifth race. Clement had won six straight races for Ungoverned's owner, Peter Karches. He wasted little time beginning a new streak for Karches when Quiet won Saturday's seventh race.