02/23/2006 12:00AM

Mustanfar returns to action

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Mustanfar didn't win the 2005 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf but probably should have. On Saturday, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will give Mustanfar another opportunity to win the Grade 1 , which this year has been lengthened from 1 3/8 miles to 1 7/16 miles and changed from a handicap to a weight-for-age stakes.

Mustanfar went off as the 7-5 favorite in the 2005 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup. After lagging near the rear of the 11-horse field for over a mile he was forced extremely wide rallying into the stretch. The loss of ground proved costly, and Mustanfar finished third, beaten a half-length by Prince Arch.

"It's tough to be 7-5 in a Grade 1 race and get that kind of trip, to be six wide like he was," said McLaughlin, who trains Mustanfar for the Shadwell Stable.

Mustanfar has made only two starts since the Gulfstream Breeders' Cup, finishing sixth after suffering through a rough trip in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in May and ninth in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park in June, both Grade 1 events.

"I opted to give him a break after the Manhattan," McLaughlin said. "He didn't have any major problems. I've been pointing for this race for a long time. I figure he runs well fresh, and he wants to go the distance. Naturally I'm a little nervous bringing him back off the layoff and asking him to go this far, but I think he should run well."

Mustanfar will face a group that includes Grade 1 winners Honor in War, Request for Parole, Gun Salute, and Continuously, along with Einstein, Everything to Gain, and Broadway View.

Honor in War has won three of his five starts since returning in October from a seven-month vacation, including the Ft. Lauderdale Stakes earlier in the meet. He was beaten 1 1/2 lengths in the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida Handicap Jan. 29.

Request for Parole won the Grade 1 United Nations Handicap in 2004 but has not won a race since. He does come off his best effort in quite some time, a fourth-place finish in the Mac Diarmida.

Gun Salute won three straight graded turf stakes, including the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park, before concluding his 3-year-old campaign with an eighth in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Gun Salute is trained by Bill Mott, who has already won five previous renewals of the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf.

Continuously is winless since being awarded the victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup via the disqualification of Epicentre in November 2003.