01/14/2005 12:00AM

So far, so good for Margolis gang

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Steve Margolis

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Last year Steve Margolis shipped to south Florida fresh off a Breeders' Cup victory with Cajun Beat and spent much of the winter in the media spotlight. But after sending Cajun Beat back to owner Satish Sanan's farm in Ocala to be freshened following his fourth-place finish in the Dubai Golden Shaheen sprint, Margolis never saw his star again.

Cajun Beat was ultimately transferred to trainer Bobby Frankel's barn, leaving Margolis with a gaping hole to fill in his stable. When Margolis returned for the 2005 meeting, he shipped in with little fanfare.

But a little more than one week into the new session, Margolis's name is in the forefront once again, this time as leading trainer, after he saddled four winners during the first five days of the meet.

"I know it won't last - I don't have the numbers to stay on top - but it's nice to see my name up there at least for now," Margolis said shortly after training hours Friday. "Everything has worked out perfectly so far. I've got a bunch of maiden claimers I was able to spot right, all my horses have stayed healthy, the help is working hard, and we've caught a few breaks along the way. I even won a race at Calder before we came over here, so right now things couldn't be better."

Margolis has 14 horses stabled at Gulfstream after spending the last two winters 45 miles up the road at the Palm Meadows training facility in Boynton Beach.

"The training center was great, but personally I'd prefer to be stabled where we're running at," said Margolis, who served his apprenticeship working for trainers Howie Tesher and Stanley Hough. "It's easier on the horses and on the help to just lead them out of the stall and over to the races, especially for a smaller outfit like mine."

Margolis said life after Cajun Beat was not easy, but was glad just to have been given the opportunity to train a horse of that quality.

"We had a good run, and the horse gave me a chance to do things and go places I'd never been before, such as Dubai," said Margolis. "Having a horse like Cajun Beat in the barn always picks your head up, and he certainly won't be easy to replace, but I have some good owners and a couple of nice young horses we have some high hopes for."

The most accomplished runners in Margolis's stable at the moment are Marwood, who is pointing for the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, and Key to the Cat, who will run next in the Suwannee River Handicap.

McGaughey just getting started

Trainer Shug McGaughey has been quiet during the early stages of the meet but has some of his big guns gearing up for their 2005 debuts.

Daydreaming worked an easy half-mile in 50.40 seconds on Friday, but she is not expected to start until the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap on Feb. 26. Her main goal here this winter is the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap on March 26.

"She's doing fine," said McGaughey. "It's a long year, and there's nothing early that interests me, so I'll just let her go along easy and aim for the Sabin to get things started."

Daydreaming closed out her 3-year-old campaign with victories in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap and Grade 3 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks. She also finished second, a length behind Stellar Jayne, in the Grade 1 Gazelle.

McGaughey is a bit closer to taking the wraps off Defer, his lightly raced but promising 3-year-old, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 on Monday. A son of Danzig, Defer has not started since winning the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity on Nov. 20. He also finished second behind Rockport Harbor in the Grade 3 Nashua.

"He had a good work the other morning," said McGaughey. "I'll probably start him back in the Hutcheson. It's not exactly what I'd prefer, being only 7 1/2 furlongs, but I wanted to give him some time after his last race, and the Aventura came up a bit too quick.

"The race should suit him fine leading up to the Fountain of Youth," he said. "He probably bled a little in his race against Rockport Harbor, but I thought he ran very well in Maryland. He's really done exceptionally well since getting down here, and I have high hopes for him."

Bear Fan to bypass First Lady Handicap

Only 16 horses were nominated for next Saturday's $100,000 First Lady Handicap. Among the fillies conspicuous by their absence from the list was Bear Fan, who will instead be pointed for the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint on Jan. 29.

Bear Fan continues to sizzle in the morning at Palm Meadows, where she worked five furlongs in 58.80 on Friday.

* Trainer Nick Zito on Friday worked both of his Donn Handicap hopefuls, Pies Prospect and Seek Gold. Pies Prospect went five furlongs in 1:01, and Seek Gold went five furlongs in 1:01.60.