03/04/2003 12:00AM

Sunscreen back from vacation


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When Sunscreen gave up so easily in the Grade 2 La Prevoyante Handicap, trainer Jonathan Sheppard knew a change of scenery was in order.

"It may have been too tough a spot for her anyway," Sheppard said, "but normally she keeps galloping. That day she packed it in."

Thus, Sheppard packed her bags and shipped Sunscreen to Camden, S.C., for a brief freshening. Sunscreen returned to south Florida last weekend and, following an easy five-furlong workout in 1:02.60 on Monday at Gulfstream Park, she will return to the races Thursday in a second-level turf allowance race at 12 furlongs.

"I'm quite pleased with her and I'm glad we're drawn to the outside," said Sheppard, whose filly will break from post 7 in an eight-horse field.

Sheppard said Sunscreen might prefer yielding turf, which is unlikely to be the case Thursday. Though she won a first-level allowance race at Colonial Downs on firm ground, Sunscreen's best race may have been when she finished fourth, beaten only two lengths, in the Dowager Stakes at Keeneland over yielding turf.

In a race lacking any true speed, Sunscreen could find herself closer to the pace than usual, which doesn't seem to pose a problem.

"She has a nice loping stride and she has bottomless stamina," Sheppard said.

The unknown in the field is Carib Lady, an Irish-bred daughter of Sadler's Wells, who makes her North American debut for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Carib Lady is 2 for 9 lifetime with both wins coming at 10 furlongs. She did not show much speed in Europe, but may simply have been facing better than she meets Thursday.

"She's trained fine since we had her," said Pletcher, who received the filly two months ago. "The distance seems right for her on pedigree and past performances and we felt like this was a good starting point."

Carib Lady will run on Lasix for the first time and will be ridden by Jose Santos.

Trainer Bill Mott sends out Miu Miu and Miss Playbill. Miu Miu won her career debut on turf at Saratoga, but has not been back on that surface since. Miu Miu is a half-brother to Aavelord, who won the Gallant Fox Handicap at 13 furlongs on dirt.

Miu Miu has the tactical speed to be in the race early and could be dangerous if Pat Day is able to gain a clear early advantage with her.

Jerry Bailey rides Miss Playbill, who won a first-level allowance race at Calder in November, but was a non-factor in her first start at this condition.

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