02/04/2003 12:00AM

Region of Merit will miss Whirlaway


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Christophe Clement's first trip down the Triple Crown trail has been delayed.

Clement, known primarily as a trainer of turf runners, had planned to run the promising 3-year-old Region of Merit, owned by Calumet Farm, in Saturday's Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct. But Clement was not satisfied with Region of Merit's Tuesday workout at Payson Park and canceled plans to ship the colt to New York.

"He breezed this morning disappointingly,'' Clement said from Florida. "I will prefer to pass. The horse is not right; it's difficult to put him on a 22-hour van ride. We'll regroup, get him back healthy, and look for something else.''

Region of Merit would have added some pizzazz to Saturday's $75,000 Whirlaway, New York's last two-turn stakes for 3-year-olds before the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 12. In addition to being owned by the storied Calumet Farm, Region of Merit was coming off two consecutive victories including a 1 1/2-length score in a preliminary allowance race at seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park.

Region of Merit was sired by 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, and is out of the Gone West mare Innocently Astray.

The defection of Region of Merit leaves the Whirlaway, run at 1 1/16 miles, with a field of five to nine runners. Those considered definite are Grey Comet, Boston Park, Go Rockin' Robin, Mustang Jock, and Torre and Zim. Possibilities include Auto City, Gimmeawink, Penobscot Bay, and Skamper.

Gryder: No war worries in Dubai

Jockey Aaron Gryder recently returned from a five-day trip to Dubai and said the mood of the country was good despite the threat of war just 100 miles away in Iraq.

"Things were so quiet that I asked a few people, 'Do you guys worry about war?' " Gryder said. "They feel like they're in a very safe spot. Maybe the mood will change, but the people that are there right now don't seem too concerned about it.''

Gryder went to Dubai to ride Go Underground in the Maktoum Cup Challenge, one of the preps on the road to the March 29 Dubai World Cup. Go Underground finished fourth and may run in one more prep before his connections decide whether to run in the World Cup or not. Gryder does not know yet if he will be asked to return to ride Go Underground.

"I thought he ran real well,'' Gryder said. "He broke from the 14 hole, and going a mile it's a very short run to the first turn. They also told me he was probably better going a mile and an eighth to a mile and a quarter. I felt with any kind of trip he could have been second.''

Videogenic replay in Rare Treat

Indy Glory and Pocus Hocus, who finished a neck apart in last Friday's Videogenic Stakes will square off again in the $75,000 Rare Treat Handicap on Feb. 17.

Indy Glory was able to run down a loose-on-the-lead Pocus Hocus in the final yards of the Videogenic, her first win in more than nine months.

Indy Glory's last two starts - both over the inner track - have been very good. Loretta Lusteg, the assistant trainer for John Kimmel, said the winter weather has played a role in the filly's recent success.

"She likes it cold,'' Lusteg said. "Some horses do appreciate it.

"The last two times she's run, she had a tight track and she needs that as well.''

Jimmy Jerkens, Pocus Hocus's trainer, said his filly came out of the Videogenic in good order and will go on to the Rare Treat, which only received 13 nominations. Martha's Music, a winner of four consecutive starts for trainer John Servis, is also expected to run.

Lisa's Royal Guy a lukewarm choice

Lisa's Royal Guy gets a tepid vote in Thursday's nominal feature, a $44,000 allowance event for 4-year-olds and up that have never won two races.

Two starts back, when equipped with blinkers for the first time, Lisa's Royal Guy ran a respectable second behind Street Life. A month later, in the same condition, Lisa's Royal Guy caught a sloppy track and was bumped at the break in a fifth-place finish.

He shows three good works since his last start and figures to be close to what figures to be a modest pace.

Promises, who has shown improvement since adding blinkers and joining trainer Pat Reynolds's barn, could be the one to beat. Right Too Refuse and New Paradigm are also contenders in the eight-horse field.

Runaway Chanel sold

Runaway Chanel, a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Got Koko, has been sold to Herb Moelis's CandyLand Farm for an undisclosed sum. Runaway Chanel, sired by Runaway Groom, had been owned by Bruce Garafolo and trained by Mary Hartman. Garafolo had moved the filly to the barn of Jason Servis.

Moelis, who owns a farm in Delaware, said Runaway Chanel has been sent to a farm in South Carolina, where she will soon begin training under the tutelage of Donna Freyer for a spring campaign. Moelis said he has not decided which trainer he will send the filly to when she is ready race.

Runaway Chanel went 1 for 6 as a 2-year-old and finished third in the Grade 3 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth.