02/13/2004 12:00AM

Pletcher vs. McLaughlin once again


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Last Sunday, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin got the best of his colleague Todd Pletcher when Randaroo rolled to a front-running 7 1/4-length victory over Harmony Lodge in the Grade 3 Shirley Jones Handicap.

This Sunday, the two former D. Wayne Lukas assistants will again have the key protagonists in Gulfstream Park's feature when McLaughlin sends out in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sabin Handicap for older fillies and mares. The Sabin, run at 1 1/16 miles, drew an exceptionally strong field of 10, including Lead Story, Passing Shot, Nonsuch Bay, and Final Round as well as Secret Request, the 74-1 winner of the Sunshine Millions Distaff.

Roar Emotion, who won last year's Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, came off a seven-month layoff to win a third-level allowance/optional claimer Jan. 15. She held off Kiss Me Twice in the stretch, and Kiss Me Twice came back to win her next out.

"I thought she might have gotten more tired than she actually did," said McLaughlin, who is 9 for 15 at this meet with two stakes wins. "Johnny [Velazquez], who knows her better than I do, said she tends to wait on her company, and she was waiting on that filly down the lane."

Smok'n Frolic, who has more wins (8) than Roar Emotion has starts (7), is coming off a tough-luck second in last month's Sunshine Millions Distaff. She was squeezed at the start from post 10, raced wide and far back, and was outfinished by Secret Request. With a better break from the rail, Smok'n Frolic and Jerry Bailey figure to be stalking Roar Emotion.

"Our filly's got tactical speed," Pletcher said. "We'll certainly be aware that we don't want Roar Emotion to walk the dog up front."

Passing Shot, who upset Wild Spirit in last year's Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap for trainer Allen Jerkens, went 2 for 2 around two turns last year.

Lead Story, who ended her 2003 campaign with victories in the Churchill Downs Distaff and Falls City Handicap, makes her seasonal debut in the Sabin as the 119-pound highweight. Trainer Carl Nafzger worries whether his filly can catch up on this speed-favoring surface.

"She'll have to run her top race and, with the track and everything, we're going up against it," Nafzger said. "I think it's a solid horse race, and there is enough speed in there to help us if it plays right."

Pampered Princess is 3 for 5 since moving into trainer Marty Wolfson's barn. Nonsuch Bay is 4 for 7 at Gulfstream. Ivanavinalot and Grab Bag complete the field.