10/28/2007 11:00PM

Soft grass isn't her Achilles' heel

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - By winning Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Monmouth Park, Lahudood went from afterthought to likely champion, providing a fitting conclusion to what has been a roller-coaster year for her trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin.

Five months ago, McLaughlin had a stable that included defending Horse of the Year Invasor, soon-to-be Grade 1 winners Flashy Bull, Lear's Princess, and Shakespeare, plus Makderah, a budding filly and mare turf stakes winner. Lahudood was on few people's radar screens.

But as time went by, Invasor, Flashy Bull, Makderah, and Shakespeare all were retired due to injury. Lahudood, coming off a last-place finish in the Beverly D., was summoned as Makderah's replacement in the Flower Bowl Invitational on Sept. 29.

When she won that race at odds of 21-1, Lahudood earned her way into the BC Filly and Mare Turf, provided owner Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Shadwell Stable put up a $180,000 supplemental fee. It was the same Sheikh Hamdan who told McLaughlin to throw out the Beverly D. performance because Lahudood doesn't handle soft turf as well as she handles firm.

Though heavy rain made for an extremely soft Monmouth turf course on Saturday, Lahudood didn't seem to mind as she powered home a three-quarter-length winner over Honey Ryder, who edged favorite Passage of Time by a neck. Nashoba's Key, winner of all seven career starts entering the race, finished fourth.

Lahudood's victory in the Breeders' Cup combined with her score in the Grade 1 Flower Bowl most likely will earn her an Eclipse Award as North American champion turf filly. She is being retired and will ship to Shadwell Farm this week. It is not yet known to whom she will be bred.

"It's crazy how things go,'' McLaughlin said. "Makderah steps out, she steps in, two Gradeo1s - bang, bang.''

Now, despite losing so many horses to injury, McLaughlin still ranks third in purse money won by trainers this year with $11,909,401 - including $3.6 million earned by Invasor winning the Dubai World Cup.

"It's a fabulous year, an incredible year,'' McLaughlin said.

In the Filly and Mare Turf, Lahudood raced in midpack while in between horses as the Bobby Frankel-trained stablemates Precious Kitten and Argentina went out for the early lead. Simply Perfect outsprinted those two for the lead down the stretch the first time, but she bolted entering the clubhouse turn, taking Precious Kitten and Arravale with her and eliminating their chances.

Argentina inherited the lead around the clubhouse turn with Lahudood, Nashoba's Key, and Timarwa just behind her. Entering the far turn, Lahudood, under 22-year-old jockey Alan Garcia, went after Argentina, caught her midway around the far turn, opened up a two-length advantage in midstretch, and held on for the victory. Lahudood, a 4-year-old daughter of Singspiel, covered the 1 3/8 miles in 2:22.75 and returned $25.40 to win.

"I thought when I looked at her form from France she liked it soft,'' McLaughlin said. "I spoke to Sheikh Hamdan a day or two before the race and he said, 'She handles it well soft, but I feel like she's just a little bit better if it's firm.'

"Now looking back I don't know why she ran so poorly in the Beverly D.,'' McLaughlin said. "She may be not a good shipper, so flying there and all that might not have been great for her. I was throwing the race out because of the ground; obviously it wasn't.''

The ground was the primary reason trainer Todd Pletcher scratched Wait a While out of the Filly and Mare Turf. Still, he was well represented by Honey Ryder, who, after trailing the field through the first quarter-mile, made a strong rally in the stretch to be second.

"We were carried wide at the three-eighths pole, and [Lahudood] cut the corner,'' said John Velazquez, who rode Honey Ryder.

Honey Ryder has also been retired, with a record of 13-4-8 from 33 starts and earnings of $2,784,160. She won 11 stakes, including the Grade 1 Flower Bowl and Grade 1 E.P. Taylor in 2006.

Meanwhile, jockey Joe Talamo said Nashoba's Key was compromised by being on the rail most of the way.

"She was on the worst part of the track the whole way around there,'' Talamo said. "It was probably six inches deep on that rail.''

Nashoba's Key was due to return to Southern California, where her future will be evaluated later. Trainer Carla Gaines was due to attend the Tattersalls autumn horses in training sales in London this week.