02/02/2008 12:00AM

Spring at Last snags Grade 1 Donn

Bob Coglianese/NYRA
Spring at Last holds off A. P. Arrow for a half-length victory in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - A year ago Spring at Last made the long trip to Dubai to win the $1 million Godolphin Mile. But after notching his first Grade 1 victory, a half-length decision over A. P. Arrow in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park, Spring at Last's next trip to the Middle East could be for all the marbles in the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

Meanwhile, plans to send Daaher to Nad Al Sheba to defend his former stablemate Invasor's title in the World Cup will now be put on hold after the 4-5 favorite tired badly and finished a well-beaten seventh in the Donn.

Making just his second start since winning the Godolphin Mile on March 31, Spring at Last got a perfect trip under jockey Eibar Coa in the 1 1/8-mile Donn. Coa briefly challenged Daaher for the lead into the clubhouse turn before easing back to sit behind the favorite, who was pressed on the lead by longshot Kiss the Kid. Spring at Last eased outside and challenged the leaders nearing the quarter pole, edged clear in early stretch, then withstood a final surge from A. P. Arrow despite drifting some through the latter stages.

A. P. Arrow saved ground early while racing near the rear of the eight-horse field, advanced gradually around the second turn, came out for the drive, and finished best of all. Kiss the Kid outlasted 2006 Donn winner Brass Hat by a nose for third.

Spring at Last, owned by J. Paul Reddam and his breeder, WinStar Farm LLC, completed the distance in 1:48.13 over a fast track and paid $14.

"He's just a brilliant horse," said trainer Doug O'Neill, who watched the Donn from California. "He had a little flake in an ankle after the Dubai trip. This was such a big effort off a layoff and one race. When Daaher looked all out and we were surging, I felt very confident."

O'Neill said Spring at Last could make his next start in the World Cup.

"It's got to be a strong possibility after this race," said O'Neill.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he was obviously disappointed in the performance of Daaher, who was ridden by Mike Luzzi.

"Mike said he was blowing pretty hard and that he thought he should have fought on a little harder when he was challenged," said McLaughlin. "We'll scope him when he gets back to the barn, although it appears he came back sound."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen