01/28/2005 1:00AM

Numbers favor Motion and Frankel


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There will be little margin for error when a full and well-matched field of turf specialists travel 1 3/8 miles in Sunday's $100,000 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Only six pounds separate 118-pound highweight Burning Sun from low weights Navesink River and Swagger Stick in the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida. Trainer Bobby Frankel will saddle Burning Sun and uncoupled stablemate Gigli. Swagger Stick is one of three horses in the race from the barn of H. Graham Motion, who will also send out Colonial Bay and Change Course.

The rest of the field is Scooter Roach, Broadway View, Rio Guapore, Macaw, In Hand, and Host.

will likely go off the slight favorite, with Jerry Bailey slated to ride. Burning Sun won a second-level allowance victory in his U.S. debut but has not started since finishing fourth in Churchill Down's Grade 1 Turf Classic on May 1.

may prove the better of the Frankel pair, but he is winless in the U.S. and must break from the outside in post position 12. Gigli was a Group 1 winner in his native Brazil earlier in his career and finished third behind Kicken Kris and Breeders' Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now last out in the Grade 2 Bowling Green on July 17. Eclipse Award-winning jockey John Velazquez has the mount.

Motion said he is hard pressed to separate his trio and thinks any of the three can win with a little racing luck.

"When I heard Frankel was running two horses in the race, I figured I'd better run three to have any chance," said Motion. "It's a big step up for all my horses, but it's an evenly matched race and there doesn't seem to be any standouts."

is coming off a fourth-place finish in Calder's 1 1/2-mile Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap and is one of only three members of the Mac Diarmida lineup to have won a race at 1 3/8 miles.

"He ran a super race in the McKnight, and the distance Sunday really suits him," said Motion.

Swagger Stick will be making his U.S. debut but already owns a win at 1 1/2 miles. Change Course is coming off a nice allowance effort at Calder.

Macaw is also a proven commodity at the distance, having won the John Henry at 1 3/8 miles at the Meadowlands on Oct. 29. Macaw completed his 2004 campaign with an eighth-place finish in the McKnight, beaten only three lengths after breaking several lengths behind the field.

is on top of his game, having finished third in the McKnight and a fast-closing fourth in the Ft. Lauderdale Handicap earlier this month. Already a Grade 3 winner on grass, Scooter Roach earned career-best Beyers of 100 in his two south Florida appearances, making him one of only three members of the field, along with Burning Sun and Macaw, to own a triple-digit Beyer.

Navesink River figures to race forwardly placed. He comes off a good effort in the Grade 2 Red Smith, in which he finished fifth behind Dreadnaught after prompting the pace to the stretch. Navesink River should improve off that outing, which was his first start on grass and first beyond 1 1/8 miles.

Host was perfect in two starts over the local turf course last winter, winning at 1 3/8 miles and 1 1/2 miles, and was beaten only a half-length by Macaw despite racing wide in the John Henry. Trainer John Kimmel will equip Host with blinkers for the first time Saturday.