06/03/2001 11:00PM

Will Carafe end Shug's drought?


ELMONT, N.Y. - Last spring, Shug McGaughey was one of the top percentage trainers at the Belmont meet, winning at 31 percent - 16 wins from 51 starts. This spring, McGaughey is a hard-to-fathom 0 for 20 after the first four weeks.

"I just don't have much," said McGaughey, whose last New York winner came on May 5 at Aqueduct.

McGaughey hopes to end his drought Wednesday when he sends out Carafe in a second-level allowance race at Belmont Park. Wednesday's card, which starts Belmont Stakes week, features a pick-six carryover of $41,799.

Carafe, a daughter of Devil's Bag, drops back into allowance company after two stakes tries. On April 22 at Keeneland, she chased a hot pace before fading to fifth in the Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland. Last month, Carafe sat back and made a late run to finish second, beaten three-quarters of a length, behind the undefeated Kimbralata in the Miss Preakness Stakes. "She's got to be back," McGaughey said. "In the Miss Preakness, [Kimbralata] was on the lead on slow fractions. To close over something like that is tough to do."

Carafe was victorious the last time she ran in allowance company and is also 1 for 1 over Belmont's main track. John Velazquez, the meet's leading rider, has the call from post 6.

There should be sufficient pace in the six-furlong race, and part of it could be supplied by Blue Holiday, who gets blinkers for the first time after failing as the favorite for the third time in her last four starts.

"The last three times she's been second it looked like she couldn't lose turning for home," trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. "She takes the lead so easy then she lets the other horses come back."

Dutrow said Blue Holiday has been more aggressive in her morning training since getting the blinkers.

An interesting prospect is Carna, who is 2 for 2 after winning a preliminary allowance race on May 31, her first start in 14 months. Trainer Mike Hushion said Carna was sidelined so long because she had a shoulder problem. In her last start, Hushion said Carna overcame some greenness and a rough trip to win her last race.

Carna breaks from the rail under Aaron Gryder.

The race also marks the return of Ruby Friday to the races. A New York-bred daughter of Distinctive Pro, Ruby Friday was freshened after finishing fifth in the Montauk Handicap last Dec. 3. Before that loss, she reeled off three straight wins, including the Perfect Arc Division of the New York Stallion Stakes on Nov. 12.