12/20/2003 1:00AM

Storm Flag Flying on comeback trail


MIAMI - Storm Flag Flying, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2002, has returned to serious training at the Palm Beach Downs training center and is expected to make her much-anticipated return to action within the next couple of months.

Storm Flag Flying, who capped off an undefeated 2-year-old campaign with a game victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, made only two starts as a 3-year-old and has not raced since finishing sixth in the Acorn Stakes on June 6.

"She developed a problem with some deep bruising in her back ankle, which could have led to even more trouble if we didn't stop on her," trainer Shug McGaughey said shortly after training hours at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. "She seems fine now. She worked last Thursday at Palm Beach Downs and is scheduled to breeze again up there on Wednesday morning.

"If all goes well, I'd like to have her up to a race here sometime around the 1st of February - either an allowance or perhaps a stakes like the Shirley Jones [at seven furlongs on Feb. 8]," McGaughey said. "Right now, my main goals would be some of the filly and mare stakes later this year in New York."

McGaughey said he is optimistic that Storm Flag Flying can return to championship form.

"I don't see why she wouldn't be able to come back as good as she was before," McGaughey said. "I wouldn't even try to bring her back if I didn't think that way. If it looks like that won't be the case, there's still time to breed her this season."

Jerkens stocked with stakes horses

Trainer Allen Jerkens, who sent out Chilly Rooster to victory in Friday's 10th race at Calder, appears primed for a big winter at Gulfstream.

Among Jerkens' stakes-caliber horses are Puzzlement, Bowman's Band, Society Selection, House Party, and First Blush.

"I might run both Puzzlement and Bowman's Band in the Hal's Hope on opening day," Jerkens said Saturday. "I'll see how they're both doing over the next couple of weeks before making a decision. There's a chance First Blush might also run the same day in the Mr. Prospector."

Jerkens said Society Selection, winner of the Grade 1 Frizette, would likely wait to launch her 3-year-old campaign in the Old Hat Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on Feb. 14. Society Selection closed out her 2003 campaign with a troubled 10th-place finish behind Halfbridled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

House Party, the defending Old Hat champion, went on to win four more stakes, including the Grade 1 Prioress. She will get back into action on Jan. 11 in the Grade 3 First Ladies Handicap.

Timo, Vous top nominations

Timo and Vous, respective winners of the Mecke and Hollywood Wildcat stakes here on Nov. 29, head the list of nominees for the final two stakes of the meet, the Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Park Derby and Tropical Park Oaks on New Year's Day.

The 1 1/8-mile Tropical Park Derby attracted 26 nominees, including stakes winners Commendation and Master William.

The 1 1/16-mile Oaks also drew 26 nominations, a list that includes America America, Galloping Gal, Honey Ryder, Ender's Sister, Lucifer's Stone, and Pink Champagne.