01/12/2007 1:00AM

Turf form puts Defer in the mix


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Defer, who had been considered a Kentucky Derby hopeful when stabled in south Florida during the winter of 2005, now appears destined to spend the remainder of his career on turf, beginning with Sunday's $49,500 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park.

Defer was considered one of the more promising horses of his generation after ending his 2-year-old campaign with an impressive two-length victory in the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity, which was run at Pimlico that year. But after Defer finished off the board in both the Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth here to open his 3-year-old season, trainer Shug McGaughey switched him to the turf, where he's pretty much been a fixture ever since.

"He's by Danzig and just seems more consistent on the turf than the dirt," said McGaughey. "I put him on the dirt for his last two starts, and the first was pretty good but the last one was not. I wanted to try him after that over Keeneland's [synthetic] track, but the plane broke down so I never got him there. He'll probably wind up doing most of his running on grass from now on."

Defer won a second-level allowance race going 1 1/8 miles and also finished third against third-level allowance company over Saratoga's turf course last summer. A repeat of either effort would make him a key contender under jockey Edgar Prado in Sunday's wide-open main event.

Carnera, a stakes winner over the Saratoga grass course this past summer, may prove the one to catch for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and jockey Fernando Jara. Carnera, a 4-year-old son of Old Trieste, placed in graded stakes twice on grass in 2006 before closing out his campaign in the Grade 2 Jamaica Breeders' Cup Handicap, where he finished a tiring seventh behind Showing Up after being hard-used contesting the pace.

One of the most intriguing runners in the field is Heat of the Night, a South African-bred who makes his U.S. debut for trainer Anthony Sciametta Jr., who is handling Todd Pletcher's horses during Pletcher's suspension. Heat of the Night was a Group 3 stakes winner at 3, but has not started since finishing far back against Group 1 competition in South Africa one year ago.

Trainer Bill Mott will bring Zurich back off a one-year layoff. The Irish-bred has been idle since finishing second in Calder's Mel's Hope Stakes in December 2005.

The remainder of the field is Bear's Kid, Famous Frolic, I'mroyallymecke'd, World Battle, Pitchnicholas, Hello Mecke, Kansas City Boy, and Wood Be Willing.