12/31/2001 12:00AM

Opening-day stakes reset with eight horses

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The 63rd Gulfstream Park meeting opens Thursday with an 11-race card highlighted by the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes for 3-year-olds at six furlongs. Post time for opening day, the first of 90 programs in an expanded meet that runs through April 24, is 1 p.m.

A total of 97 horses were entered for a program that includes only one turf race. Heavy rain fell over south Florida on Monday and scattered showers were in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. The forecast for opening day is mostly cloudy skies with a high temperature of 70 degrees.

Gulfstream racing officials got off to an inauspicious start when they had to re-draw the Spectacular Bid after Mr. Kipp had been omitted from the original field of entries. A field of eight will run, led by Maybry's Boy from the barn of Shug McGaughey.

Maybry's Boy won his maiden in his fourth career start at Aqueduct. In his first try against winners, Maybry's Boy finished a late-running second, beaten a nose by Spin Zone in a six-furlong allowance race. John Velazquez will ride Maybry's Boy from the outside post.

With Jerry Bailey in the irons, Harmony Hall could go off the second choice to Maybry's Boy. A son of Gilded Time, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile when it was held at Gulfstream in 1992, Harmony Hall has two wins and two seconds from six career starts. In his last race, Harmony Hall finished a dull sixth behind Iron Deputy in the Huntington Stakes at Aqueduct.

"He's had a little gate problem and he got real [crabby] in the gate and he just ran ugly, " trainer Frank Alexander said.

Alexander said he has taken Harmony Hall to the gate three or four times since he has been here and hopes for a better effort on Thursday.

"We've had him over there enough to think we're in good shape, " Alexander said.

Completing the field are Handsome Hunk, who won the Fort Springs Stakes at Keeneland; Bog Hunter and Showmeitall, the one-two finishers from the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa; How About My Place; Mr. Kipp; and Royal Lad.

Saarland works toward Fountain of Youth

On his last day as a 2-year-old, Saarland began preparation for his 3-year-old season on Monday by working four furlongs in 52 seconds over Gulfstream's main track. It was Saarland's first breeze since he won the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct on Nov. 24.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said he is pointing Saarland to the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 16 and perhaps the Florida Derby on March 16. McGaughey said if he feels Gulfstream's main track is too speed favoring, he might skip the Florida Derby with Saarland and run him in the Louisiana Derby instead.

"I'll see how the track's playing, " McGaughey said. "My ultimate goal is still the Wood Memorial. "

Another juvenile of note on the work tab Monday was Nokoma, the Remsen runner-up, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he is leaning toward running Nokoma in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 19.

Monarchos preps for Donn

Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos continued preparation for his 4-year-old season on Sunday by breezing five furlongs in 1:01.60 over Gulfstream's main track. Jockey Jorge Chavez was up for the move, which was the seventh fastest of 28 at the distance.

Trainer John Ward, who watched the work along with owner John Oxley, said he was pleased with the move and the progress Monarchos has made since coming to Florida at the end of November.

"He's coming right along, " said Ward, who is pointing Monarchos to the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 9.

Chavez, who has been aboard Monarchos for his last two workouts, said he notices a difference in the horse from last spring's Triple Crown campaign.

"He's a much stronger and smarter horse, " Chavez said. "``He's changed completely. "

Ward, Oxley acquire Booklet

While they may not have a Triple Crown prospect from their own stock, Ward and Oxley privately purchased Booklet, a stakes-winning juvenile, from Philip Cohen and trainer Steve Klesaris.

A son of Notebook, Booklet won 4 of 5 starts, including the Dover Stakes at Delaware and the last leg of the Florida Stallion Series at Calder on Oct. 13. His only loss came in the Saratoga Special in which he finished third behind Jump Start and Heavyweight Champ.

"From all appearances he's a nice, handy little horse who looks like he'll be a serviceable 3-year-old throughout the year, " Ward said. "``We didn't necessarily buy him as a Kentucky Derby contender, we bought him to be a nice

3-year-old. If he turns out to be a Kentucky Derby contender that would be a pleasant surprise. "

* Traditionally, the Oaklawn Handicap winner, breezed five furlongs in 1:04.60 on Monday. McGaughey said it is likely Traditionally will run in the Skip Away Stakes on Jan. 12, when he most likely will face 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch