03/25/2003 1:00AM

Shug's stars getting fitter


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Tuesday was a dark day on the local racing schedule. But for trainer Shug McGaughey it was business as usual during training hours at Gulfstream Park as he sent out several of his top runners to work, including Storm Flag Flying and Saarland.

McGaughey continues to take it slow and easy with Storm Flag Flying, his undefeated Juvenile Filly champion who worked a half-mile in 50.20 seconds.

Coming out onto the track at her regular time shortly after the second renovation break, Storm Flag Flying broke off at little more than a two-minute clip from the half-mile pole. She picked up the pace leaving the three-furlong marker and galloped out strongly from the wire to the seven-eighths pole.

"She did fine," McGaughey said. "I caught her in 49 and change from the three-eighths to the seven-eighths pole. I'll wait until we get up to New York before doing anything really serious with her."

McGaughey said Storm Flag Flying would have one more work before leaving south Florida.

"She'll work here next Monday morning and we'll ship for New York that afternoon," said McGaughey. "I'm waiting for the main track at Belmont to open for training, and they're saying it will be open on April 1."

McGaughey remains on schedule with Storm Flag Flying, who will make her much anticipated 3-year-old debut in Aqueduct's one-mile Comely Stakes on April 18. If all goes well, McGaughey said she could still make it to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks on May 2.

Saarland, who is also on the verge of making his 2003 debut, worked earlier Tuesday morning, breezing five furlongs in a leisurely 1:03.80.

"He'll run in an allowance race at Belmont on April 11," said McGaughey. "We'll see how he does there before making any further plans, but if all went right I'd like to use the handicap races in New York this summer, the Brooklyn and the Suburban."

McGaughey will still be in action at Gulfstream over the weekend, most notably in Sunday's $75,000 Caltech Handicap, which will be the stakes debut of Charge, a lightly raced 3-year-old.

Charge, a homebred son of Dynaformer owned by Wheelock Whitney, has shown much improvement since he was switched to the turf here this winter. He will enter the Caltech off a 1 1/4-length maiden victory at nine furlongs on the grass earlier this month.

"This is a little aggressive for me, going from a maiden race into a stakes, but the Caltech doesn't appear to be coming up that tough," said McGaughey, who worked Charge a half-mile in 50.40 over the main track Tuesday. "And besides, who knows when we'll be able to get on the turf once we get up north?"

Charge will carry 116 pounds, with Eibar Coa riding, in the Caltech. That's four fewer than Imitation, the expected starting highweight at 120 pounds for trainer Christophe Clement.

Lawbook back in training

Trust N Luck was considered the best 2-year-old in training at Calder by the end of the 2002 campaign. For most of the season, however, that honor went to Lawbook, who defeated Trust N Luck to win the first two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes before he sustained an ankle injury while trying to sweep the series in the $400,000 In Reality Stakes.

Thomas Heard, who owns and trains Lawbook, gave the talented colt five months off to recuperate from his injury. Monday, Lawbook turned in his first work on the comeback trail, going three furlongs in 34.60, according to Heard.

"He horrified me the way he worked," said Heard. "It was much too fast. I told the kid not to break him off running, but once he turned his head loose a little he just took off. I almost fainted. Fortunately, he came back perfect and is really fitter than I thought."

Heard said Lawbook twisted an ankle during the running of the In Reality.

"He didn't tear anything. I probably could have started him back sooner but I didn't want to rush him," Heard said. "He's really got a lot of ability and it will be a while before he runs. He won't start until I'm sure he's dead fit."