02/25/2002 1:00AM

Perry took a shot and it paid off


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - To scratch or not to scratch; that was the question.

They were all doing it before Saturday's $150,000 Canadian Turf Handicap, which came off the turf because of rain. Hap, the solid favorite, came out, and so did Pisces, the Appleton winner. One Eyed Joker, Star Over the Bay, and Tv Sports Director were also scratched, and North East Bound almost joined them. He hadn't run well on the dirt here at Gulfstream last winter.

With the field small and the quality dubious, trainer Bill Perry opted to take a chance with North East Bound, and the decision was a good one. A 6-year-old gelding by D'Accord, North East Bound raced in front all the way to win the 1 1/16-mile test by almost five lengths, with Jose Velez Jr. in the irons.

So it was a nice pay day for North East Bound, who had been beaten an inch in his last two starts, both grass stakes. Owned and bred by Julian DeMarco and Richard DiSano of Cranston, R.I., the fast-stepping North East Bound increased his career earnings to $1,345,708, based on 12 victories from 35 starts. A very fine horse, indeed.

Despite the outcome of the Canadian, North East Bound will return to the grass for his next start, the $200,000 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 12. He won this race last spring, beating the highly regarded Brahms by a neck and earning an impressive Beyer Figure of 108.

Ms Brookski makes presence known

The veteran trainer Reed Combest and his son, Phil, who is his assistant and partner, may have a 3-year-old filly of consequence in Ms Brookski, who came from well off the pace to win Sunday's $100,000 Davona Dale Stakes at 1 1/16 miles by almost four lengths. Rosemary Homeister Jr. rode the Montbrook filly, who went off at 13-1, even though she won had two stakes at Calder last fall and was second in the $400,000 Florida Stallion Stakes.

Smok'n Frolic, who won the Demoiselle at Aqueduct and the Tempted at Belmont Park, was the even-money favorite in the Davona Dale. She raced strongly into the stretch and then flattened out.

Phil Combest worked with the family stable while in school, then attended the University of Southern California. After graduation he worked as a writer for several television shows, including "Magnum, P.I." and "Simon and Simon." He returned to Florida several months ago and, to his father's delight, rejoined the stable.

Ms Brookski went through the Ocala Breeders' April sale, failed to reach her reserve and was bought back for $19,000. Reed Combest bought her privately and the Davona Dale victory boosted her earnings past the $300,000 mark.

"She is some kind of nice filly," Reed Combest said. "She will go as far as they write races. Her next start will be the $250,000 Bonnie Miss on March 15 and then we'll see where we stand. Kentucky is the place to be in the spring if you have a good 3-year-old, but we want to take them one race at a time."

* Gulfstream had a successful handicapping contest over the weekend with 120 players paying $750 each to participate. First prize of $100,000 went to James Mineo of Plantation, Fla., who sealed his victory with a winning bet on Ms Brookski.