03/25/2004 12:00AM

Randaroo at top of game for Distaff


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The champion Storm Flag Flying was successful in her return to the races off a 265-day layoff last month at Gulfstream Park. The water gets deeper Saturday when Storm Flag Flying meets Randaroo in the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct.

Though is a multiple graded stakes winner at the Distaff distance of seven furlongs and is 2 for 2 at Aqueduct, including a victory in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap last November. As a 2-year-old, Randaroo won the Valley Stream Stakes at Aqueduct.

Only two other horses - Fit Performer and Chirimoya - were entered in the Distaff.

Randaroo is 7-for-13 lifetime and is coming off the best performance of her career when she won the Grade 3 Shirley Jones Handicap last month at Gulfstream Park. Randaroo earned a career-high 108 Beyer Speed Figure in the race, and has had seven weeks to recover.

Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Randaroo for owner Joe Allen, is using the Distaff as a prep for the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on May 1. Despite not having won a Grade 1 race, Randaroo is the 121-pound starting highweight in the Distaff. She will break from post 4 under Richard Migliore.

"I feel confident that all systems are go for us; the distance, the track, the timing from her last race,'' McLaughlin said. "Storm Flag Flying is a champion and a Grade 1 filly. If she's back at her best, it's going to be a very good race. I like our chances in this particular spot.''

At 2, Storm Flag Flying won a trio of Grade 1 events, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. She wasn't quite right last year and finished a well-beaten second in the Comely here in April. Storm Flag Flying finished sixth in the Acorn - Randaroo finished fifth in that race - and was later found to have a bad bruise in a hind leg. Fearing the bruise could develop into a fracture, trainer Shug McGaughey gave Storm Flag Flying the remainder of the year off.

Her return, at a mile and 70 yards, was a good race in that she showed the same early stalking speed she did as a 2-year-old. Though she loafed a bit when she made the lead, Storm Flag Flying still won by 3 1/2 lengths.

McGaughey chose the Distaff because he thought it would be an easier way to get Storm Flag Flying ready for New York's series of races in the older fillies and mares division than shipping her to Oaklawn for next weekend's Apple Blossom.

Storm Flag Flying returned to New York last week and had an easy three-furlong workout over the Belmont training track on Monday.

Edgar Prado will ride Storm Flag Flying because her regular rider, John Velazquez, is in Dubai.

Since Storm Flag Flying didn't run too well over the main track last year, handicappers may look to leave her out of the exacta. Fit Performer has run well enough in her last three starts to give her consideration for second.

Before the start of Saturday's card, Aqueduct will offer wagering on the Dubai World Cup. Post time for the World Cup is 12:20 p.m. Eastern.