06/16/2003 11:00PM

Sunny outlook at McLaughlin barn


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is going so well at Belmont that even when he skips a condition with a horse, he is running a strong contender.

Such is the case with the 4-year-old Sunray Spirit, who was hustled into Thursday's third-level allowance race at Belmont Park, but who still could be the one to beat in the 6 1/2-furlong race. McLaughlin has enjoyed a tremendously successful spring meet, having sent out 10 winners from 18 starters.

At 2, when trained by Eoin Harty, Sunray Spirit won the Grade 2 Cowdin Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont. Last fall, Sunray Spirit was beaten a neck in a second-level allowance race at the same distance before finishing fifth, beaten only 4 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 2 Forest Hills Handicap.

In his only start this year, Sunray Spirit finished seventh in the Mekong Cup Handicap at Nad al Sheba Jan. 30. One of the keys to McLaughlin's horses being able to reverse poor Dubai form is the opportunity to get back on Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication.

"I think it helps all horses, some more than others,'' McLaughlin said. "He's not a confirmed bleeder as many that I have are; he must have bled at 2 to be on Lasix. Even though I'm jumping a condition it's a dropdown considering he's a Grade 2 winner.''

McLaughlin said another reason for his success is finding the proper spots in which to run his horses.

"When the racing office calls and says they have four and you make five and they're going to use the race, that always helps,'' McLaughlin said. "He might possibly need a run, but the way we're going we've got a chance to get a big piece of it.''

Mike's Classic and No Parole appear to be the other major players in the five-horse field.

Mike's Classic, trained by Allen Jerkens, could be the main speed under jockey Ray Ganpath. Since adding blinkers and Lasix four starts back, Mike's Classic has two wins, a second, and a third. Most recently, he was beaten a head in an optional claiming race at Delaware Park.

No Parole drops back into allowance company in his second start of the year. He finished fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths in the off-the-turf Jaipur Handicap, his first start in 5 1/2 months. A New York-bred, No Parole defeated open company allowance foes at this distance last November at Aqueduct. Jerry Bailey, who rode him then, is back aboard for trainer Joe Aquilino.

Wonderful Prospect and Turn Back the Time complete the field.

"He hadn't actually put a foot wrong this year," Attfield said. "In the Dixie, he got beaten but he ran a winning race."

Perfect Soul forced the pace over very soft going that day, but after disposing of front-running Del Mar Show, who finished third here Sunday, he fell victim to the wide rally of Dr. Brendler.

"That day, he ran a different style," Attfield said. "He can run from off it or he can be up there, if there's no pace. He really loves to run at horses, like he did Sunday."

Attfield had plotted an opening five-race schedule for Perfect Soul's 2003 campaign, and hasn't missed a beat yet.

The plan now calls for Perfect Soul to use the Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes as a steppingstone to the Grade 1 Arlington Million at 1 1/4 miles on turf Aug. 16.

Forum Search tries grass return

After competing exclusively on the dirt since last summer, Forum Search will go back to the grass for Thursday's headliner, an $80,000 optional claiming race for fillies and mares.

Forum Search has run three below-par races here on the main track since shipping in from Gulfstream, where she won a $50,000 claiming race in January.

Forum Search's three grass efforts last year were all solid. After finishing a close fifth behind Lush Soldier in the Alywow Stakes, she won a $62,500 optional claiming race in front-running style, and then finished third against $80,000 opposition.

Patrick Husbands will ride Forum Search for trainer Mark Casse.

Completing the field for the 6 1/2-furlong race are Picture Palace, My Gabrielle, Devil's Reason, Out Well, and Chanceisalady.

Picture Palace won two preliminary allowance races over yielding turf here last fall for trainer David Bell. She has been idle since Nov. 2 and would prefer a middle distance. She could be prepping for a longer race.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink