10/02/2003 11:00PM

Struggling Saarland eyes turnaround


ELMONT, N.Y. - Saarland started his 4-year-old season on a positive note back on April 11 at Aqueduct by winning an allowance race. But since then he has lost five consecutive starts. Saarland's connections will try to get him back in the winner's circle in a Sunday allowance race at Belmont Park.

Seven older males entered the 1 1/8-mile dirt race.

Despite his losing streak, Saarland has run some good races this year while running in tough spots. He finished second in the Grade 3 Westchester, which was won by Najran, who shattered a track record and equaled Dr. Fager's North American record for a mile on the dirt that day. In the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile, Saarland was beaten a neck by Aldebaran, who has turned out to be one of the best sprinters in the country.

Shug McGaughey, who trains Saarland for Cynthia Phipps, said his colt bled through Lasix in his last start, when he finished sixth in the Grade 3 Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park on Aug. 23. McGaughey said the bleeding compromised the horse's chances.

"We need to get back on the right track with him," said McGaughey, who would like to use Sunday's race as a prep for the $100,000 Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 11. "It's been kind of a funny year for him; it's just a shame he got beat in the Met Mile."

John Velazquez rides Saarland from the rail.

Also entered is Northern Rock, who finished fourth in the Grade 1 Woodward on Sept. 6. Northern Rock earned a 113 Beyer Speed Figure when he won an allowance race at Belmont on June 12. In that race, Northern Rock beat Puzzlement, who won the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap in August.

Richard Migliore rides Northern Rock from post 4.

Almuhathir is 2 for 3 at Belmont. In June, Almuhathir beat graded stakes winner Regal Sanction, who was entered to run in Friday's $400,000 Meadowlands Cup.

Cottage, El Gran Papa, Left Hook, and Unbridled Vision complete the field.

Storm Flag Flying back in barn soon

Storm Flag Flying, last year's 2-year-old filly champion, has begun galloping at the Miacomet Farm near Lexington, Ky., and is expected to return to McGaughey's barn next week to begin getting ready for her 4-year-old campaign.

Storm Flag Flying went winless in two starts this year and was diagnosed with a small hairline fracture in a hind leg after finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Acorn in June. She did not undergo surgery, and was simply given time off. McGaughey said an ultrasound performed last week showed that the injury had healed.

McGaughey said the plan for Storm Flag Flying is to get her ready for Gulfstream Park's series of races for older fillies and mares, such as the Shirley Jones and Rampart Handicap.

"If she's running good she'll go the whole year," McGaughey said. "If something happens and she's not running good, they'll breed her. She doesn't have any studs written next to her name. If everything goes right, she could come back and be a very good 4-year-old filly."

In other news regarding McGaughey runners, La Reina will run here in the Grade 2, $150,000 Astarita Stakes on Oct. 13. La Reina, a daughter of A.P. Indy out of the Grade 1 winning mare Queena, won a seven-furlong maiden race by five lengths at Belmont Sept. 6.

Windsor Castle back from ligament tear

Graded stakes winner Windsor Castle will resume training next week, following time off to heal a small tear in a suspensory ligament.

Windsor Castle, who this year won the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park and the William D. Schaefer at Pimlico, last ran on July 23 at Saratoga in an allowance race and finished third.

Frank Alexander, who trains the 5-year-old son of Lord Carson, said Windsor Castle remained in his barn during his recovery period and was walked under tack.

"He was never sore; there was just a little bit of filling," Alexander said. "It really wasn't bad and just required some time."

Windsor Castle, who is owned by Dogwood Stable, will begin jogging next week and should be ready to gallop a couple of weeks after that, Alexander said. The horse will accompany Alexander to Gulfstream Park this winter.

* Alexander worked his Grade 1 winner Nonsuch Bay over Belmont's main track on Friday. The filly, who finished sixth in the Grade 1 Ruffian in her last start on Sept. 13, covered five furlongs in 1:00.66.

Peeping Tom: Not done yet

Trainer Pat Reynolds said that Grade 1 winner Peeping Tom came out of his last-place finish in last Saturday's Grade 1 Vosburgh in good shape.

It was Peeping Tom's first race since July 4 when he finished second to Aldebaran in the Tom Fool.

"It was asking too much to come off the bench without a prep in a race like that," Reynolds said. "We took a shot and it didn't work out."

Reynolds has scrapped any idea of going to the Breeders' Cup Sprint and will look for a money allowance in a few weeks for Peeping Tom's next start. Reynolds said the gelding appreciates the cooler weather.

"When the leaves get brown, Tom comes around," Reynolds said. "We'll look for an easier spot to get our boy back in form."

* On Friday, Reynolds worked Shawklit Mint over the training track in preparation for the $125,000 Iroquois Handicap on New York Showcase Day. Shawklit Mint covered three furlongs in 36.29. Shawklit Mint received a freshening at Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, N.Y. after finishing last in the Grade 3 Honorable Miss on Aug. 1 at Saratoga. In June, Shawklit Mint won the Grade 2 Vagrancy at Belmont.

- additional reporting by David Grening