03/31/2004 12:00AM

Win by Seattle Fitz would cap off meet

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Kiaran McLaughlin will not win the 2004 Gulfstream Park training title. But he figures to put the punctuation mark on one of the more impressive overall training performances in track history when he sends out Seattle Fitz as the odds-on favorite in Saturday's $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

McLaughlin will enter the Gulfstream Park Handicap with 15 winners and four graded-stakes victories from just 35 starters here this winter - a batting average of .430 at one of the premier race meets in the country.

"It's been a fabulous meet," McLaughlin said. "This was my first time in Florida as a trainer, and things went even better than I could have anticipated. I came down with some very nice horses, and a few ran even better than I thought they might."

McLaughlin cited Randaroo's one-sided victory in the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap as perhaps the highlight of the winter.

"When Randaroo beat Harmony Lodge in the Sabin, it was one of the most explosive performances I've seen as a trainer," said McLaughlin, whose previous tour of duty at Gulfstream came as an assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

"Binya was probably the biggest surprise. She really did something special winning her last," McLaughlin said, referring to the Grade 3 The Very One, "and it appears she'll have a great future."

About the only disappointment McLaughlin had here all season was Roar Emotion's performance in the Grade 2 Rampart. She battled with Sightseek, the eventual winner, through moderate fractions of 48.46 seconds and 1:11.81 before finishing a distant fourth.

"A lot of people felt her effort was a result of her dueling on the lead with a great filly like Sightseek," McLaughlin said. "And I would have agreed if the fractions were very fast."

But with the way the race shaped up, he said, Roar Emotion "shouldn't have backed up that badly."

"Personally, I think she displaced," he said. "Fortunately she came out of the race just fine, so I'm just throwing it out and chalking it up to her having a bad day."

McLaughlin said Roar Emotion will return either in the Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland on April 16 or the Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap at Churchill Downs on April 30.

McLaughlin is also expecting a big performance from Seattle Fitz in the 1 1/4-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap. Seattle Fitz finished second behind the odds-on Medaglia d'Oro in the Grade 1 Donn earlier in the meet. In his last start, Seattle Fitz was fourth as the 5-2 favorite in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap.

"I'm a little concerned about the distance, but I think he'll handle it," McLaughlin said. "And he's trained very well since he came back from New Orleans."

West looks best to Clement

Seattle Fitz's chances got a little better once trainer Christophe Clement opted to pass the Gulfstream Park Handicap with Dynever in favor of Saturday's Grade 3 San Bernardino Handicap at Santa Anita. Dynever, who has not started since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Classic, flew to California on Tuesday.

"It's a long way to go for only $100,000, but it's also the right way to go," Clement said. "I need to run him this weekend to keep him on schedule for the Pimlico Special. There were several factors that combined in making our decision to send him out West, including the chance of rain here this weekend, the weight, the jockey situation, and the distance of the two races."

Dynever would have been the 119-pound starting highweight in the 10-furlong Gulfstream Park Handicap. He will carry only 116 pounds in the nine-furlong San Bernardino. Clement was also having difficulty finding a rider for Dynever in Florida, but acquired the services of Corey Nakatani in California.

Region of Merit makes 2004 debut Friday

Clement will launch the 4-year-old campaign of Region of Merit here in Friday's $46,000 allowance feature. Region of Merit capped off a four-race win streak with a victory over Aristocat in the 2003 Tampa Bay Derby, but went winless in three subsequent starts. Region of Merit has been idle since finishing far back in the Grade 2 Jerome on Sept. 13.

Friday's main event, to be decided at 1 1/16 miles, drew a strong field that also includes Super Frolic, Supah Blitz, Shotgun Fire, Justification, Sea of Tranquility, and Bada Bada Boom.

Super Frolic and Justification were among the nominees for the Gulfstream Park Handicap, while Supah Blitz comes off a pair of sharp second-place finishes that include a near miss in the Grade 3 Skip Away on March 13.

White has three in weekend stakes

Trainer Bill White is hoping to have a big weekend. On Saturday he sends out Humorously, an up-and-coming 3-year-old, in the $250,000 Aventura Stakes. The following afternoon he'll have D'Wildcat Speed here for the $100,000 Banshee Breeze Handicap, and Capias as one of the favorites in Tampa Bay Downs's $75,000 Sophomore Turf.

"All three horses are training extremely well, and I'm going into all three races expecting - not hoping for - a big effort," White said. "And when you do that, usually something good happens."

Humorously enters the Aventura off an easy 8 1/2-length victory in the OBS Championship. D'Wildcat Speed finished a "deceptively good fifth," according to White, when she made her U.S. debut in the Hurricane Bertie Handicap, while Capias turned in a good grass debut with a late-striding fourth in the Caltech Stakes.