02/09/2002 12:00AM

Saarland goes his five furlongs alone

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Saarland's work did not go exactly as planned, but it went well enough for trainer Shug McGaughey to keep his horse under consideration for next Saturday's $500,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Saarland was scheduled to work five furlongs out of the gate in company with stablemate Jackpot. Unfortunately, moments after the doors opened Jackpot stumbled and lost his rider, leaving Saarland to go it on his own.

Despite working without company, Saarland turned in a sharp move going five furlongs in 1:02 before galloping out in 1:15 and change.

"I thought he worked good," said McGaughey. "It was his best work of the winter. I was hoping they would have harrowed the track a little more. It would have given me a better idea on how he handled it. But he certainly handled it better than he had before."

Saarland has not started since outgaming Nokoma to win the Remsen on Nov. 24 at Aqueduct and has appeared to have difficulty handling the deeper Gulfstream track in his previous works. The track surface underwent a drastic overhaul earlier this week.

"He's nominated to the Fountain of Youth, so I'm still thinking about it," said McGaughey, who also plans to run Maybry's Boy in the Grade 1 event.

McGaughey said Saturday that Saarland's owner, Cynthia Phipps, "has been out of the country for a month, but I'll talk to her tomorrow or the first of the week and then make a decision. I'm not in any hurry with him. But the fact he handled the track better today makes it likely he'll either run in the Fountain of Youth or in an allowance race here instead of us having to look elsewhere for his first start."

Ward waits, goes with Booklet

The threat of rain had caused Gulfstream's track to be sealed Friday night, leaving it faster and harder Saturday morning than it has been all meet. Trainer John Ward had planned to work Booklet, who is scheduled to run in the Fountain of Youth, at 7:40 a.m., but postponed the work while monitoring the condition of the track.

The track was chewed up enough by late Saturday morning that Ward finally decided to go ahead and work Booklet, who at 8:45 a.m. breezed an impressive five furlongs in 1:00.60, the best time of 20 at the distance. Allan Rennie, an exercise rider, was aboard.

"He did a wonderful job keeping him in control," Ward said of Rennie, who had his hands full as an eager Booklet broke off for his work. "He's such a neat animal. He's not frantic. He just goes along at a strong cadence."

Earlier Saturday morning, Stephentown, another expected starter in the Fountain of Youth, had his final work for that race. Trainer Tony Reinstedler, who also was concerned about the condition of the track, instructed jockey Pat Day to go as slowly as possible. Stephentown breezed five furlongs in 1:06.80, the slowest time of 20 at the distance, and more than two seconds slower than the next-slowest time.

"He went real nice and slow. I just wanted him to stretch his legs," Reinstedler said. "I didn't want to get him all keyed up. The track's very firm this morning. I like to work him a week out. I didn't want to wait any longer than today, so we went with on with it."

In addition to Saarland, Booklet, and Stephentown, others expected for the Fountain of Youth are Blue Burner, Grey Beard, Harlan's Holiday, Maybry's Boy, Political Attack, Speed Hunter, and possibly Repent. Political Attack worked five furlongs in 1:03 on Saturday morning at Payson Park.

Coa lawyer's request denied

Jeffrey Weiner, a lawyer working on behalf of suspended jockey Eibar Coa, requested that Scott Savin, president of Gulfstream, disqualify all three stewards from the second hearing for Coa, scheduled on Feb. 14. Savin, in turn, denied the request.

Coa received a 30-day suspension from the Gulfstream stewards for his ride aboard Mr. Livingston in the Fort Lauderdale Handicap. At an appeal hearing on Wednesday, Savin, acting as appeal officer, ruled Coa was entitled to a second hearing before the stewards in light of the fact he was not given proper notification or sufficient time to prepare a defense at his first hearing, per house rules.

Weiner said the fact the stewards gave Coa such "an extraordinarily harsh penalty" following the first hearing makes a second hearing before the same stewards a "perfunctory proceeding with a foregone conclusion." He suggested two or three independent stewards be appointed to handle the second hearing.

Savin, in response to Weiner's letter, said, "I have received the request, which is respectfully denied. The hearing will proceed as scheduled."

Driving Miss Linda a little slower

Miss Linda, who raced to an overpowering 4 1/4-length victory in Friday's Sabin Handicap for older fillies and mares, will be raced far more judiciously this year than last fall, according to her trainer, John Kimmel.

Miss Linda won last year's Spinster Stakes, raced 20 days later in the Breeders' Cup Distaff after being supplemented to the race for $400,000 by owners Bob and Lee Ackerley. Then, less than four weeks later, Miss Linda ran in the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs, finishing fourth.

"She was probably a little over the top when we ran in the Breeders' Cup. She was coming back quick off a major performance. But we had to take a shot," Kimmel said. "She was probably over the top for the Falls City, but we got caught up looking to get her an Eclipse Award."

Because Miss Linda was supplemented to the Breeders' Cup last year, she will not have to supplemented this year. Kimmel said he will "work from the Breeders' Cup backwards," trying to find a well-spaced series of races that gets Miss Linda to the Breeders' Cup while fresh.

"We want a second shot at the Breeders' Cup," Kimmel said. "She'll come into it off six or eight weeks, not off four weeks. The Spinster is far too close for her."

Azeff being moved

Yvonne Azeff, the assistant trainer to Ward who has been in a coma since being injured when a horse fell on her two weeks ago, was scheduled to be moved from a local hospital to a rehabilitation facility in Del Rey, Fla., on Monday or Tuesday, Ward said.

Ward said Azeff can open her eyes and then shuts them to rest. He said her left side is more responsive than her right. "Her left side is about a week in front of her right," he said. "This is going to be a long-term proposition."

Ward said the injury was to Azeff's brain stem. He said her most alert times have been in the morning, when she would normally be working. Ward said on one recent day Azeff had a package of veterinarian wrap placed in her hand. After gripping it tightly, she twirled the package using one hand, as if she was about to unroll it to use on a horse.

"She can follow sound around, and the other day a friend of hers was there and she reached out and touched his nose," Ward said.

* Buddha and Quest won split divisions of a seven-furlong maiden allowance dash Saturday, Buddha running seven furlongs in 1:23.00, Quest in 1:24.50. Trainer H. James Bond, who saddled Buddha, missed a sweep of the two 3-year-old races when Harbor Star had to settle for second money behind Quest after lugging in and racing greenly through the stretch.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman