01/25/2006 12:00AM

Silver Wagon leaves no doubt: He likes turf

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Shakespeare, one of the top grass horses in the country, is scheduled to make his 2006 debut in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes on March 25.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The Gulfstream Park turf course was open for training for the first time this winter on Wednesday morning. Surprisingly, only two horses took advantage of the opportunity, one of whom was Grade 1 winner Silver Wagon.

Silver Wagon had neither raced nor trained on turf prior to Wednesday, which made his seven-furlong workout under jockey Cornelio Velasquez as much an experiment as anything else. And from all appearances he passed the test with flying colors.

With Buckram Oak Farm's racing manager Mohammed Moubarak looking on, Silver Wagon was timed in 1:26 while completing the final eighth in 11.45 seconds.

"We were looking more for how he handled the grass than a fast final time, and it sure appeared like he did it very well," said Moubarak. "He finished willingly, galloped out strong, and seemed to have a nice elasticity to his stride down the stretch."

Silver Wagon, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at 2, won just 1 of 9 starts last year, the victory coming in his 2005 debut here in February. He did have a productive campaign nonetheless, finishing second behind Ghostzapper in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, third in the Grade 1 Forego, and fourth in both the Grade 1 Vosburgh and Grade 1 Cigar handicaps.

"He's been doing the same routine for a long time, and I think a switch to grass will be good for him mentally regardless of how he does," said Moubarak. "I'm not exactly sure what will be next, but the Appleton could be a possibility."

The Grade 3 Appleton Handicap will be run at one mile on the turf here on Feb. 11.

No Donn Handicap for Istan

Trainer Bill Mott ruled out any chance that Istan, an impressive allowance winner here on Jan. 19, would run back in the Grade 1 Donn on Feb. 4.

"He's not even going to be nominated to the Donn," Mott said after training hours here Wednesday. "The plan is to keep him at a mile or less for now."

Istan, a 4-year-old son of Gone West, drew off to an easy victory over Grade 3 winner Wandering Boy going a mile under third-level allowance conditions in his first start since being switched to Mott's barn last fall.

"I was very happy with his race," said Mott. "He had run exclusively on grass before coming to this country, so this was a little experiment for us. Being by Gone West, we are hopeful running on dirt will move him up."

Mott runners Gun Salute and Shakespeare, both of whom have not started since the Breeders' Cup, are in training at Payson Park, he said.

Gun Salute, winner of the Grade 1 Secretariat at 3, finished eighth in the Breeders' Cup Turf. He is among the nominees for Sunday's 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida Handicap.

"It's probably a little too soon to run him this weekend, but he's doing well and should be ready to start sometime in February," said Mott.

Mott also said that Shakespeare, generally regarded among the top grass horses in the country despite his 12th-place finish in the BC Turf, is scheduled to make his 2006 debut in the Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Nad Al Sheba on March 25.

Sutherland, through the lens of Liebowitz

Most riders spend dark days at the beach, on the golf course, or just relaxing at home with the family. Chantal Sutherland spent much of her day off Tuesday on horseback being photographed by award-winning fashion photographer Annie Liebowitz for a layout in the March issue of Vogue magazine.

Sutherland, 29, spent 3 1/2 hours Tuesday on the photo shoot, which took place over Gulfstream Park's main track, most of it while she was riding trainer John Kimmel's stable pony. The Canadian-born Sutherland had previously done shoots this month for Aventura and Lincoln Road magazines as well as some advertising layouts for Gulfstream Park.

"I've never really thought about doing any modeling," Sutherland said in the jockeys' room shortly before going out to ride Twice Too Much to victory in Wednesday's fifth race. "It just all started happening this fall. To be honest it really doesn't interest me that much right now. I only do the ones which I think will help or promote the sport. What I'd really like to get into down the road would be broadcasting or the handicapping side of racing. Although hopefully that will still be a long way off."

Sutherland's victory aboard Twice Too Much was her third of the meet.

"I knew coming down here it was a tough meet, so I'm pretty happy the way things have been going so far," said Sutherland. "I really love my agent; he's really working hard and doing a great job, and I'm just hoping I can continue to do well here this winter for the two of us."

Sutherland's riding engagements are being handled by Kevin Meyocks, son of former NYRA president Terry Meyocks.

Umphrey memorial on Feb. 4

A memorial celebrating the life of Bob Umphrey will be held at Calder on Feb. 4 on the fourth floor of the clubhouse from 5-8 p.m. Dress is casual.

Umphrey, who served as racing secretary at Calder for the past 10 years, died as a result of a massive stroke on Jan. 2.

* Duane Christo, stakes coordinator at Tampa Bay Downs, will be at Palm Meadows on Friday and both Gulfstream and Calder Saturday and Sunday to solicit nominations for Tampa Bay's Festival Preview card on Feb. 18.