02/18/2002 12:00AM

Booklet showed grit at Gulfstream

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HALLENDALE BEACH, Fla. - What a game little colt.

After making his own pace from the outset without much pressure, Booklet suddenly came under fire through the final furlong of Saturday's $200,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes for 3-year-olds. Harlan's Holiday, the 2-1 favorite, had rated nicely for Tony D'Amico. Now he was getting ready to deliver the coup de grace, but he never had a chance to pull the trigger.

You could see Booklet reaching down for more reserve, and he must have found it, for he won by a nose. It wasn't a case of Harlan's Holiday doing anything wrong. He ran what was probably his best race yet, and he did everything but win. Booklet was simply a determined warrior, as suggested by his record, which shows six victories from seven starts.

The Fountain of Youth was a very entertaining race, but history tells us not to go overboard. Of the last 20 runnings of the Florida Derby, only five have been won by Fountain of Youth winners. The spring is a time of tremendous growth for 3-year-olds, and all horses do not grow at similar speed. Some make great strides over a short period of time, others progress slowly, and some make no progress at all until they are more mature. Booklet is obviously precocious and leads his division locally. Whether he can continue to do so remains to be seen. He should have been favored in the Fountain of Youth, for he beat Harlan's Holiday in similar fashion in the Holy Bull.

It was a strong showing Saturday for Stephentown on the basis of an impressive allowance victory last month. He ran well early in the Fountain of Youth, but then flattened out. The experience should be helpful, for he appears to be a colt with talent. Another lightly seasoned colt, Blue Burner, also ran well to finish third, and merits consideration in future appearances. But the day belonged to Booklet, who was skillfully ridden by Jorge Chavez.

John Oxley, who raced last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Monarchos, purchased Booklet privately on Jan. 1 for a reported $1 million. It was good deal.

Cetewayo scores for Dickinson

Another outstanding performance on Saturday's top-notch program was the victory of Cetewayo in the $200,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on the turf course.

Cetewayo is an 8-year-old horse by His Majesty. Most horses of his age have long since been retired. Cetewayo won some important victories on the turf several years ago but had not won a race of any kind since he captured the Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct in November 2000. He had not run a race since last November's Red Smith. There was no evidence of his age on Saturday. After patiently biding his time deep in the 12-horse field, young Cornelio Velasquez began to move with his horse on the final turn. He angled outside for racing room, and Cetewayo seemed to sprout wings, flying past one horse after another and continuing strongly to win by more than three lengths.

Band is Passing, who is no spring chicken himself at age 6, did well to be second.

The man behind Cetewayo is trainer Michael Dickinson, justly famed for the miracle of Da Hoss. That Gone West gelding went into the record books when he scored his second victory in the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1998. He won the race in 1996, did not race at all in 1997, and had only one race in 1998 to prepare for the Breeders' Cup Mile. He was dismissed at 11-1 in a field full of good milers, but came from off the pace with a flourish to beat the crack Hawksley Hill.

Cetewayo, owned by Dr. John Chandler of Lexington, Ky., who admired the great undefeated Italian champion Ribot and bred his mare Aletta Maria to Ribot's son His Majesty. With Dickinson's considerable assistance, it was a felicitous cross of pedigrees, and Cetewayo has now earned some $800,000. In the absence of any outstanding turf horse this winter to date, Cetewayo may add to his record of achievement in Gulfstream's $200,000 Pan American Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on March 23.