03/25/2004 1:00AM

Another unlucky draw for Gygistar in Artax


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Alan Seewald got exactly what he was looking for and colleague Mark Hennig got what he feared most when entries were drawn for Saturday's $100,000 Artax Handicap.

Seewald was hoping for a lot of speed to help set up the late run of Vinemeister in the Artax. Hennig wanted anything but post position No. 1 for Gygistar, who will be the highweight and likely favorite in the seven-furlong dash.

rallied from last to beat high-priced optional claiming and allowance competition on Feb. 16 and enters the Artax off a sharp three-furlong drill earlier this week. A Grade 3 winner at a mile last season, Vinemeister appears to be the best late threat in a race that should have an honest pace.

has faced some of the top sprinters in the area during the meet, having finished second in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector, fourth in the Grade 3 Deputy Minister, and fourth in the Grade 2 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup. But Gygistar has now drawn the inside post in five of his last seven starts, and has been soundly beaten three straight times from the rail.

Hennig indicated earlier this winter that he would be inclined to scratch Gygistar the next time the Grade 1 winner had the misfortune to draw post 1.

Wacky for Love forced an extremely fast pace before finishing third in the Richter Scale and again figures to be on the pace, but he will likely have to deal with the speed of Speightstown, Pretty Wild, and Deer Lake.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Speightstown demands considerable respect despite the fact that he has not started since May 26. He finished second that day in Belmont's Jaipur Handicap after a race-long battle with Garnered, the eventual winner. Just 17 days earlier, Speightstown had returned from a

21-month layoff and two ankle surgeries to upset defending Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi in an allowance race.

Both Jersey Giant and Pass Rush make their 2004 debuts in the Artax. Jersey Giant has been idle since finishing far back in the Grade 3 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup on Oct. 3. Jersey Giant was graded stakes placed twice last season and has been working extremely well at Palm Meadows for trainer James Ryerson.

Pass Rush has not started since finishing fifth in Hoosier Park's Schaefer Mile on Nov. 15, and is winless since capturing Santa Anita's Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders' Cup in his 2003 debut.

Stretch-runners Fire and Glory, Dancing Guy, and Barnacle Steve round out the lineup.