09/18/2001 11:00PM

Balto Star going for Classic first

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Balto Star, the speedy 3-year-old who romped to a record victory in the Spiral Stakes in March, will attempt to become the first horse to sweep the two signature events at Turfway Park when he starts Saturday in the $400,000 Kentucky Cup Classic.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Wednesday from New York that he chose the Classic instead of Sunday's Jamaica Handicap on the Belmont turf course largely because of the way Balto Star won the March 24 Spiral by a record 14 3/4 lengths. Balto Star, a Glitterman gelding owned by Anstu Stables, easily won his last start at Saratoga, his career turf debut. Grass racing is an "option that will still be there after this," said Pletcher.

Pat Day, who rode Balto Star in the Saratoga grass win, will be back aboard on Saturday in the 1 1/8-mile Classic, the richest of the five Kentucky Cup races to be run at the Florence, Ky., track.

Three-year-olds have won three of the previous seven runnings of the Classic: Tabasco Cat (1994), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Captain Steve (2000). No winner of the Spiral, however, has also won the Classic.

At least seven starters are confirmed for the Grade 2 Classic, led by highweight Guided Tour, who will be ridden by Larry Melancon.

The Classic will be the focus of ESPN2's live coverage of the Kentucky Cup. The half-hour show begins at 5 p.m. Eastern. First post is noon.

In other developments:

*Trainer Bob Baffert, who in recent years has held the strongest hand entering the Kentucky Cup, said he did not ship any horses from California partly because he is somewhat apprehensive about the current travel worries caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York and elsewhere. Baffert would have had the huge favorite for the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile with Ecstatic.

*Kent Desormeaux will ride Dream Run, the probable second choice in the $150,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint, the Grade 2 race in which City Zip figures as a solid favorite. A field of about six or seven is expected.

*March Magic, trained by Rick Violette, has joined the prospective cast for the $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup. March Magic was booked on the Thursday flight from New York charter that was scheduled to transport Balto Star, City Zip and others.

Spain, who last year used the 1 1/16-mile Turfway BC as a springboard to victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, is the probable favorite in a field of about seven fillies and mares.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Jay Privman