02/26/2002 1:00AM

Which Clement runner is the one?


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The key question when it comes to handicapping Thursday's $38,000 allowance feature for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park may not be whether one of trainer Christophe Clement's European-breds will win the 1 1/8-mile turf race - but which one.

Clement, whose success with European-breds and European invaders at Gulfstream over the past several winters is well documented, will send out an uncoupled entry in Thursday's feature: the Irish-bred mare Lady Upstage and the English-bred filly Sauterne.

Lady Upstage has already started twice in North America, finishing second, beaten a nose by Fly for Avie, in the 2000 edition of the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, and second as the 2-5 favorite under third-level allowance conditions 11 months later at Philadelphia Park.

Before shipping to this continent, Lady Upstage was a Group 2 winner in Ireland and Group 1-placed, having finished third behind Petrushka in Longchamp's prestigious Prix de l'Opera Stakes.

Sauterne will be making her U.S. debut on Thursday. She has run only six times, winning three starts, including a listed stakes in England in the summer of her 3-year-old campaign.

So which of the pair does Clement favor?

"They've both been with me since November," Clement said. "And both are training very well. Lady Upstage was definitely the much better horse in England. But it's a year later now so things may be different. I guess we'll just wait to see how they run Thursday before determining who is the better horse now."

Jose Santos will ride Lady Upstage. Edgar Prado has the call on Sauterne.

Should both the Clement runners need a race the first time back, Sluice could become the main beneficiary. Like the Clement pair, Sluice trains at Payson Park.

Sluice will be making her second start of the meet for trainer Bill Mott, after finishing sixth under similar conditions on Jan. 26. A daughter of Seeking the Gold and Lakeway, Sluice won Arlington Park's Misty Isle Stakes in August and then finished fourth, beaten just two lengths by Snow Dance, in the Grade 3 Pucker Up Stakes five weeks later.

Another entrant, Seattle Bay, began her career in Europe, where she was Group 3 placed as a 3-year-old and competed against such talented fillies as Di Mou Oui, Penny's Gold, and Zeiting. She raced last year in the U.S., under trainer Jonathan Sheppard, and won two of her first four starts, all allowance races, before going winless in stakes in her last three starts in 2001.

Also in Thursday's race is Golden Corona, who finished a troubled seventh, a half-length behind Sluice, in her 2002 debut. She closed out her 3-year-old campaign winning three of four starts at Woodbine.

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