01/29/2004 12:00AM

Red-hot McLaughlin isn't done yet

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is batting .727 for the month of January, an average one might expect to see in a slow-pitch softball league, but not at at one of the premier race meets in the country.

McLaughlin saddled eight winners from the first 11 horses he started here this month, and one of his three losses, National Pride's fourth-place finish on opening day, came in a race won by stablemate Steadfast and True. McLaughlin's winners include Millennium Dragon in the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap and six allowance race winners. Alnahaam, who easily defeated $50,000 claiming rivals in Saturday's finale, is McLaughlin's only claiming winner this meet.

"The first month has been incredible, obviously beyond our expectations, and we're all enjoying it while we can," McLaughlin said by phone from New York on Thursday. "Of course, you have to be a little lucky to win at such a high rate and everything has been going our way so far. We've been fortunate to get our horses into some of the allowance races on the turf that overfilled. And Johnny [Velazquez] rode a couple of great races to get Mustanfar to win by a nose last Saturday and Kathir [to win] by a head earlier this month."

McLaughlin also has plenty more ammunition to fire at the opposition in the weeks ahead, beginning on Saturday when he sends out the double-barreled threat of Millennium Dragon and Steadfast and True in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap. He also has two-time Grade 2 winner Randaroo ready for the Shirley Jones Handicap on Feb. 8, Roar Emotion for the Grade 3 Sabin the following weekend, Mustanfar for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 14, and also is considering starting Seattle Fitz in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap Feb. 7.

"We were originally going to send Randaroo up to Maryland for the Barbara Fritchie but decided instead to keep her here and take on Harmony Lodge now in the Shirley Jones," said McLaughlin. "The long van ride and the difficult weather up north were the main reasons for the decision. And we're going to have to face Harmony Lodge sooner or later."

Seattle Fitz recently arrived at McLaughlin's Palm Meadows base from New York off his victory over Evening Attire in the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap.

"It's a little quick to run him back in the Donn, especially coming off the long trip and jumping up in class like that," said McLaughlin. "But we'll take a look at the weights and see how many are going in there. He'll work Monday, and I'll train and have him ready just in case. If not, there's always the race at the Fair Grounds [the New Orleans Handicap] later this month."

McLaughlin knows it will be a big step up for Mustanfar to run in the Fountain of Youth off a first-level allowance win, but he figures he might as well see where he stands with the colt, who ran in blinkers for the first time last weekend.

"The blinkers seem to have helped, and the options are to sit and wait and maybe catch as tough a field in a second-level allowance race or see how it goes in the Fountain of Youth," said McLaughlin.

Big names in Donn

Nominations were released Thursday for all four stakes scheduled here next weekend, including the $500,000 Donn, which highlights Saturday's program. Also next Saturday are the Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap and Grade 2 Davona Dale for 3-year-old fillies. The Shirley Jones will be run Sunday, Feb. 8.

As of Thursday, the leading candidates for the Donn were Funny Cide, Medaglia d'Oro, Bowman's Band, Puzzlement, Predawn Raid, and The Judge Sez Who.

Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat is expected to make his second start of the season in the Deputy Minister. The competition is likely to include Buju, Coach Jimi Lee, Voodoo, and perhaps Alke.

Grade 1 winner Society Selection, idle since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, tops the list of prospective starters for the Davona Dale. Miss Coronado, an impressive allowance winner at Santa Anita for trainer Bobby Frankel earlier this month, may accompany stablemate Medaglia d'Oro to south Florida to run in the Davona Dale according to the racing office here.

Frisky Spider Fountain-bound

Trainer Bob Durso all but confirmed Thursday that his undefeated 3-year-old Frisky Spider will make his next start in the Fountain of Youth.

Following Frisky Spider's second-level allowance victory here Sunday, Durso had been weighing the options of stretching out Frisky Spider for the Fountain of Youth or keeping him at seven furlongs for the Grade 3 Hutcheson Stakes the same day. Frisky Spider, a son of 1997 Hutcheson winner Frisk Me Now, outgamed Weiglia to narrowly win the seven-furlong sprint for his second win of the season and third in as many career starts.

"At the moment I'm leaning heavily towards the Fountain of Youth," said Durso. "I'll work him a mile next week and make a final decision after that, but if we're going to try the Florida Derby he needs to stretch out now.

"I know we're throwing an awful lot at him at once, but I liked the way he galloped out after his race Sunday, and he's peaking right now. And he'll have four weeks between the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby if everything works out the way we hope."