02/26/2003 12:00AM

Storm Flag Flying has company

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The only company Storm Flag Flying had had on the racetrack since shipping down from Payson Park last month was trainer Shug McGaughey's stable pony. On Wednesday morning she learned that three is a crowd.

As she prepared to break off at the half-mile pole to work five furlongs, Storm Flag Flying was quickly passed by two horses, one on each side, the John Kimmel-trained pair of Indy Flag and Fort Point. They had broken from the starting gate out of the seven-furlong chute. Approaching the eighth pole, Storm Flag Flying, with regular exercise rider Cecil Putnam aboard, had to come wide around Fort Point, who had begun to pull up, and she worked to the seven-eighths pole before galloping out strongly around the turn. She was officially credited with a half-mile work in 49 seconds.

"Naturally I wasn't planning on those other two horses being there with her," McGaughey said as Storm Flag Flying was cooling out after her work, which came shortly after the second renovation break. "I was a little concerned she might want to jump right into it when they went past her, but I have a lot of confidence in my rider, and she did a great job. The filly was just as relaxed as can be in behind those other two, and when she got to the wire the girl gave her a little nudge and she went on and finished real good. I sent her out hoping she'd go in about 1:02. She went a little faster than that, but I was very pleased. And this work should tighten her up good over that heavy track."

Storm Flag Flying has not started since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in October, capping off an undefeated, Eclipse Award-winning season. McGaughey said the Grade 3, seven-furlong Forward Gal Stakes here on March 14 remains a possibility for Storm Flag Flying's 3-year-old debut.

Not a bad colt, either

Indy Flag, who completed his six-furlong gate work in 1:13.40, is also gearing up for his 3-year-old debut. A son of A.P. Indy, Indy Flag rallied from the back of the pack to win his only start by 1 3/4 lengths at Aqueduct on Nov. 11.

Kimmel said he decided to give Indy Flag some time off rather than rush him back to the races here this winter.

"He came up with a few little minor things after his race, so I just figured I'd give him lots of time off and a real good freshening while I had the chance," said Kimmel. "It's a long campaign and I felt it was best to be on the conservative side. I really think he'll do well at the longer distances. He was pretty green in his first race, but he's starting to get a lot more sure about himself, and I'd really like to see him be able to put it all together."

Florida Derby field down to six

With Offlee Wild now out of the $1 million Florida Derby because of a bacterial infection, only six 3-year-olds are confirmed starters for the March 15 race. Fountain of Youth winner Trust N Luck and West Coast invader Empire Maker top the list of probables, which also includes Indy Dancer, Midway Cat, Senor Swinger, and Supah Blitz.

Trainer Bobby Frankel will ship Empire Maker to south Florida on March 10. He is expected to be joined on his flight by either Midas Eyes or Special Rate, one of whom will run on the Florida Derby undercard in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes.

Midas Eyes has not started since being purchased privately following an eight-length maiden special weight victory at Calder on Aug. 17. Special Rate dead-heated for first at Santa Anita earlier this month in his only race.

Whywhywhy preps for Swale

Whywhywhy, who finished fifth in the Fountain of Youth, started life as a sprinter on Wednesday when he breezed five furlongs in 1:02 at Gulfstream in preparation for the Swale Stakes on March 15.

After Whywhywhy ran poorly in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in October and the Fountain of Youth, his connections said the colt would be aimed at strictly sprint races. His major goal is the Grade 1 King's Bishop later this summer at Saratoga.

"He breezed nice, finished good, very relaxed," trainer Patrick Biancone said. "The race seems to have done him good."

As a 2-year-old, Whywhywhy won the Flash, Sanford and Futurity at distances from five furlongs to a mile.

Nonsuch Bay may skip Rampart

Nonsuch Bay, third in the Shirley Jones Handicap in her last start, may skip Saturday's $200,000 Rampart Handicap, trainer Frank Alexander said Wednesday.

"It's too close to run back," Alexander said, noting that the Rampart was just 15 days after the Shirley Jones. "I couldn't work her yesterday, I couldn't work her today. Maybe if Allamerican Bertie scratches I'd go. I'm still looking at it if something happens between now and entry day."

Nonsuch Bay has not won a race since the Grade 1 Mother Goose last June. She has run only four times since, with her best finish a second behind Glia in the off-the-turf Pebbles Handicap at Belmont last October.

If Nonsuch Bay doesn't run in the Rampart, that will only strengthen the chances of Allamerican Bertie. Others expected to run include Smok'n Frolic, Softly, Happily Unbridled, Redoubled Miss, and possibly Tuff Chick and Gentille Alouette.

Suwannee River runners work

Several fillies and mares targeting Sunday's Suwannee River Handicap breezed Wednesday over the good turf here.

Queue, winless in seven starts since taking the Grade 2 Long Island Handicap in 2001, went a half-mile in 52.20 seconds. Queue comes out of a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 The Very One Handicap on Feb. 8.

"She should have easily been second in her last race," trainer Vinnie Blengs said. "She moved up the inside and was stopped and knocked back to last. She circled the field and she was running fastest of all at the end. Another couple of jumps and she would have been second. I don't know whether she would have caught the winner."

Blengs said Rene Douglas would ride the 6-year-old Queue back in the Suwannee River.

Hi Tech Honeycomb, third in The Very One, worked a half-mile in 52.40 seconds over the turf for trainer Ken McPeek, while Cozy Island, who finished 10th while encountering a troubled trip in a third-level allowance on Feb. 5, went four furlongs in 50.20 seconds.

Others expected to run in the Suwannee River are Amonita, Calista, Stay Forever, and What a Price.

* Region of Merit, a good-looking second-level allowance winner here on Feb. 15, worked four furlongs in 51.80 seconds Wednesday morning at Payson Park. Trainer Christophe Clement said he was happy with the move, and added no decision has been made concerning the 3-year-old colt's next start. Region of Merit is owned by Calumet Farm.

* Beginning Saturday, Gulfstream Park will begin displaying all exacta, trifecta, pick three, and pick four prices and will-pays in $1 denominations. The only wagers that will continue to be displayed in $2 payoffs are win, place, show, daily double, and pick six.

A similar system is in place at Santa Anita, which, like Gulfstream, is owned by Frank Stronach's Magna Entertainment Corporation. The new policy is also a by-product of the vast popularity of $1 base wagering in multiple-horse bets.

- additional reporting by David Grening