03/30/2004 12:00AM

Non-winners still speak highly of Dubai trip


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Cajun Beat flew halfway around the world and survived another two weeks in Dubai training up to the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint with nary a scratch or setback. But just minutes before the race, the defending Breeders' Cup Sprint champion was kicked on the right leg by his lead pony, and in the blink of an eye perhaps all chance of winning the world's richest sprint race was lost.

Trainer Steve Margolis was reticent to blame the pre-race incident for Cajun Beat's fourth-place finish in the Golden Shaheen, although he did acknowledge it could have made a difference in the final yards of the race.

"He was kicked on the inside of his right stifle," said Margolis. "He had the mark the size of the palm of your hand in the area. The skin was broken and it was bleeding a little bit, although wasn't deep enough to require stitches. Jerry [Bailey] had the veterinarian examine him at the gate, but the horse was moving well and he did not feel there was any reason to scratch. It might have been a little bit of an issue but he fought hard all the way and just got tired near the end."

Cajun Beat ended up finishing fourth. Margolis said that despite the disappointing finish he enjoyed his first trip to Dubai.

"It was a great experience," said Margolis. "There was so much to do over there and everybody treated us extremely well. Obviously we wanted to win, but he still picked up $100,000 for finishing fourth."

Cajun Beat will return from Dubai on Friday.

"I'm going to give Cajun Beat about 45 days off and then shoot for something this summer," said Margolis, adding that the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 10 is a possible target. "Obviously the main goal the rest of the year is to defend our Breeders' Cup title."

Margolis said he plans to run another five or six horses at Gulfstream before shipping his string back to Kentucky next week.

Like Margolis, trainer Ken McPeek returned from Dubai a little road weary but happy with his horse's performance on the World Cup card.

McPeek trained Hard Buck, who was the runner-up after pressing the pace in the $2 million Sheema Classic.

McPeek was more frustrated than disappointed over Hard Buck's second-place finish.

"I love to win those kind of races, and it was frustrating to come so close as well as he ran," said McPeek. "We get $400,000 for finishing second, but by my math we're missing $800,000 for a half-length. It was a great experience again going over there, and we'll keep going back as long as we keep coming up with these kind of horses."

McPeek said he will give Hard Buck 30 days on the farm and then point him for a return this summer either in the Arlington Million or the King George at Ascot on July 24.

House Party retires, awaits Mineshaft mating

House Party, winner of the Grade 1 Prioress Stakes last year at 3, has been retired and will be bred to Mineshaft later this spring.

House Party came out of her recent victory in the Hurricane Bertie Stakes with a minor ankle injury, according to trainer Allen Jerkens. A 4-year-old daughter of French Deputy, House Party is owned by her breeder, Joseph V. Shields Jr.

House Party ends her career with 7 victories from 17 starts and earnings of just under $700,000. Along with her victory in the Prioress, she also won the Grade 2 Nassau County Breeders' Cup and Grade 3 Endine handicaps in 2003.

Nonsuch Bay ready for Banshee Breeze defense

After ducking Sightseek and Roar Emotion by skipping the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap, Nonsuch Bay is fresh and ready to defend her title in Sunday's $75,000 Banshee Breeze Handicap.

Nonsuch Bay has not won since rallying to an easy 4 3/4-length victory in the 2003 Banshee Breeze. She has been graded stakes placed five times since the Banshee Breeze, including a second-place finish behind Roar Emotion in the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap earlier in the meet.

"I just didn't want to go a mile and one-eighth against horses like Sightseek and Roar Emotion, although as things turned out I probably could have been second in the Rampart," said Alexander. "This race comes up a much easier spot and gives us the right amount of time to go into our next start [at Belmont in the Shuvee]."

Nonsuch Bay worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds under exercise rider Pat Correa on Monday.

Alexander also has high hopes for his promising 3-year-old Bidless, who scored an 11 3/4-length maiden victory in his two-turn debut on Saturday.

"I've been wanting to run him long for a while but had a setback after he bruised a foot in his previous start," said Alexander.

* The first 2-year-old race of the year will be run here Thursday. The three-furlong dash drew a field of nine, including three fillies, all of whom will be racing under claiming tags of $32,000-30,000.

* The effects of the six-day race weeks and recent the exodus of many of the Northern stables are starting to affect the daily programs. Four of the nine races on Thursday's card drew just six-horse fields, including the $36,000 allowance feature for fillies and mares.