01/19/2008 12:00AM

Prize Play still green, but getting better

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ALBANY, Calif. - Prize Play has proved to be a lot of work for trainer Amanda McKaughan, but it could pay off in the end.

The 3-year-old, purchased privately after running third in his turf debut at Kentucky Downs last September, ran third in his first start for McKaughan on Jan. 4 at Golden Gate Fields.

Prize Play will try to graduate Monday in a one-mile maiden race on the turf in the Golden Gate co-feature. He is the lone runner with turf experience in the field of six, which includes a pair of first-timers.

"This is not my style, to come back in 16 days," said McKaughan, 45, who started working with horses in Spain in 1985 and was Bill Shoemaker's first exercise rider. "I absolutely wouldn't run if the race weren't on turf."

Jeff Siegel, a member of the ownership group of Breeders' Cup Turf winner Prized, purchased the colt after his debut.

"This colt was greener than grass in his debut," McKaughan said. "He was on the wrong lead all the way and raced very wide. At the wire, he was really in gear and flew by everybody as they galloped out."

Prize Play was very green when he arrived in McKaughan's barn.

"We needed to start all over," she said. "It took three months to get him to the races. He's still green, but I think there's a lot to him. There's so much more to this horse than we've seen yet."

McKaughan has trouble finding riders in the morning for the colt. "He's never impressed anybody in the morning because he's just a plodder," she said.

The colt seemed uncomfortable around other horses, so McKaughan has given him long, slow gallops. She also tries to send him to the track when traffic is light.

McKaughan said she's noticed a difference in the colt since his Jan. 4 start, when he won a photo for third in a one-mile race on the main track.

"He still may do a little zigzagging in the morning, but things are really coming together," she said.

Uncertain Heights and Kielbasa, a pair of Southern California shippers; Da Nicky, a beaten favorite in two tries at one mile; Quite Unusual, an Unusual Heat first-timer; and the debuting Mocito round out the field.