03/02/2004 12:00AM

Streaking McLaughlin saddles pair


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Thursday's third-level allowance turf feature at Gulfstream Park is so competitive that even a runner from the seemingly unbeatable Kiaran McLaughlin barn figures to be vulnerable.

Of course, McLaughlin also stands an excellent chance to win the race with , the stronger half of McLaughlin's uncoupled two-horse entry. An overflow field of 14 was entered, with 10 permitted to run.

Through Monday, McLaughlin was 11 for 23 at this meet with four stakes wins. One of his non-stakes wins came from L'Oiseau d'Argent, a 5-year-old gelded son of Silver Hawk who was very strong winning a second-level allowance race on Jan. 16.

Making his first start in five months, L'Oiseau d'Argent was a bit headstrong in the early stages, raced close up while three wide under a snug hold from John Velazquez, opened up under his own courage around the turn, and held off a late challenge from Summer Slew to win by a neck.

"It was a great run,'' McLaughlin said. "We were very happy because he's a difficult horse to train, difficult in the gate. He's a big, long-striding colt; we like him a lot.''

L'Oiseau d'Argent is out of the dam Isla Del Rey, who is a half-sister to Abreeze, another runner McLaughlin did well with after bringing him from Europe.

McLaughlin's other runner in the Thursday's field is Raneem, a 6-year-old gelding who has gone winless in five North American tries in this condition. "He probably needs to be in a high claiming race,'' McLaughlin said.

L'Oiseau d'Argent takes on several returning stakes winners in this 1 1/16-mile race. , an Irish-bred son of Sadler's Wells, won the 2001 Hopemont and was second in the 2002 Crown Royal American Turf. He came off a near 16-month layoff to win a second-level allowance at Saratoga last August before finishing ninth in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. Pat Day rides for Elliott Walden.

Art Variety, another Brazilian-bred trained by Ken McPeek, won the 1 1/2-mile Kentucky Cup Turf last September, but tailed off toward the end of the year. McPeek admits this race may be shorter than Art Variety wants, but he will attract attention with Jerry Bailey up.

Restage, trained by Tom Proctor, is 2 for 2 on turf and won an entry-level allowance over this course last year. Proud Partner was beaten only a length in this condition here on Jan. 10, a race in which he was squeezed back at the break.

Charge would also be formidable if he could work his way in from the also-eligible list.