02/04/2002 12:00AM

Work times reflecting deep racing surface


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream Park's main track continues to be heavy and deep, making for slow times and playing havoc with horsemen's training schedules. With Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap fast approaching, trainers had no choice but to work their horses over it Sunday and Monday if they plan on making the race.

Trainer Todd Pletcher postponed a workout for Graeme Hall on Sunday, but sent him out Monday morning for a five-furlong move. Working in company with Nokoma, the runner-up in the Remsen Stakes, Graeme Hall went five furlongs in 1:01.60. On a normal track, that would have been an unspectacular move for a Pletcher-trained horse preparing for a Grade 1 race.

At Gulfstream, on Monday, it turned out to be the fastest work of 45 at the distance.

"The hardest thing is trying to get a line on how your horse works," Pletcher said. "They're much slower than on a normal track. He did it pretty much in hand and seemed like he was moving well."

The Donn will be Graeme Hall's first start since last Nov. 24, when he finished second to Left Bank in a swiftly run Cigar Mile. Prior to that, Graeme Hall won an allowance and then the Grade 3 Stuyvesant. Pletcher isn't sure what to expect from Graeme Hall on Saturday, but he says the Donn is just a starting point.

"We need to get his season under way; he tends to run his better races after he has one," Pletcher said. "He's doing good. I think we fit in the race."

Gulfstream racing secretary David Bailey obviously feels Graeme Hall fits. He assigned the multiple Grade 2 winner 118 pounds, meaning Graeme Hall will concede one to six pounds to Grade 1 winners Red Bullet, Hal's Hope, and Traditionally. While Pletcher was a little surprised at that, he said it's not big deal.

"If he gets beat it won't be because he's carrying 118 pounds," Pletcher said.

Traffic trouble could be a concern on Saturday. As many as 13 horses are being pointed to the Donn. As of Monday, the prospective field included Graeme Hall, Red Bullet (117), Best of the Rest (115), Kiss a Native (114), Duckhorn (113), Free of Love (113), Hal's Hope (113), Mongoose (113), Ubiquity (113), Pleasant Divorce (112), Rize (112), Traditionally (112), and Keats (111).

At about the same time that Graeme Hall worked, Traditionally, last year's Oaklawn Park Handicap winner, went four furlongs in 49.60 seconds. Traditionally is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Skip Away Handicap last month, but his connections are pleased with the way he has trained since.

"The track is not to his liking, but his last two breezes have been really good, the best since he's been here," said Robert Medina, assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey.

Although Rick Violette was pleased with the 48.20-second half-mile work turned in by Free of Love on Monday, the trainer said he may skip the Donn due to the field size and the weight assignment. At 113 pounds, Free of Love - whose claim to fame is a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Jim Dandy - is conceding weight to Traditionally and carries the same weight as Hal's Hope.

"It looked like a nice spot for a Grade 1 with seven or eight horses, but with 12 or 13 I'm not sure," Violette said. "I'm getting penalized because of finishing second in the Jim Dandy. You're not supposed to be penalized for finishing second or third in races."

Trainer Norman Pointer said he would enter Rize - a recent allowance winner over the track - because "he's doing good and there's nowhere else to run."

On Monday, Hal's Hope blew out three furlongs in 34.40 seconds at Calder.

Maybry's Boy Fountain of Youth bound

Though he disappointed as the favorite in Saturday's Hutcheson Stakes, Maybry's Boy will most likely make his next start in the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth on Feb. 16, trainer Shug McGaughey said Sunday.

"If he comes out of it all right I'm going to run him," said McGaughey, who noted that Maybry's Boy was fine Sunday morning. "He deserves the opportunity."

Going long, McGaughey said, Maybry's Boy "will probably lay a little closer. I was a little surprised he dropped as far back as he did [Saturday]."

In the Hutcheson, Maybry's Boy was about 10 lengths off the early pace before making a strong middle move to reach contention and then flattening out. He finished fourth, beaten five lengths.

Showmeitall, who gutted out a nose victory over Monthir, came out of the race in good shape, according to trainer Manny Tortora, but is unlikely for the Fountain of Youth because it comes too soon.

"We'll probably go around two turns," Tortora said. "We just got to find the easiest spot."

If track's deep, Stephentown won't run

Like some of his colleagues here last weekend, trainer Anthony Reinstedler was taking no chances with the racetrack, postponing Stephentown's next-to-last work for the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth until Monday, when the promising colt breezed an easy half-mile in 52 seconds.

"He finished the last quarter good and strong," said Reinstedler. "I would have preferred to have worked him Sunday, but the track was not to my liking and I am very cautious of this racetrack. It can reach up and bite you if you're not paying attention."

Stephentown will be one of the favorites to win the Fountain of Youth coming off an impressive entry-level allowance win in his 3-year-old debut on Jan. 9.

"If all goes well he'll work one more time before the race," Reinstedler said. "And if the track is not to my liking on the day of the race, if it's deep like it was here Saturday for the Hutcheson, I won't run him."

Reinstedler also said he had no intention of running Deferred Comp in Saturday's Donn Handicap, even though he nominated the injury-plagued but talented colt for the race.

"I'm not sure he's a Grade 1 horse but definitely think he's stakes caliber if he stays healthy," said Reinstedler. "He certainly deserves the opportunity to run in a stakes, although there's really not much for him here until the Cr?me Fraiche," on March 10.

Nokoma's next start undetermined

Saarland and Nokoma, the top two finishers from last November's Remsen, both worked Monday. Nokoma, who finished fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes, was outworked by Graeme Hall and was clocked in 1:01.80. His next race is undetermined.

"It wasn't a poor work, but it wasn't a blow-you-out-of-your-saddle type of work," Pletcher said. "I think he was training better when we were at Belmont. Physically, he's in good shape. At this point, I wouldn't rule out the Fountain of Youth, I wouldn't rule out an allowance race here, I wouldn't rule out shipping somewhere else to run."

Saarland worked a half-mile in 49.20 seconds and is more likely to run in an allowance race than the Fountain of Youth.

Allamerican Bertie displays potential

Allamerican Bertie has a long way to go to duplicate the exploits of her older sister Hurricane Bertie, but she certainly launched her career on the right foot, drawing off to an easy victory in the second and faster division of a split maiden special weight sprint on Sunday.

"She's showed in the morning she has a lot of ability and she certainly comes from a good family," said Steve Flint, who trains Allamerican Bertie. "The key now is to keep her sound and happy. I'll probably run her here once more in a one-other-than allowance before taking her back north to look for stakes opportunities."

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch