08/15/2003 11:00PM

Capitano no longshot this time out

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Capitano was not expected to win; Ruler's Court was not supposed to lose. Their agendas contrast Sunday at Del Mar, even while both try for the same objective - victory in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes and leadership of an ordinary 2-year-old division.

Capitano was a 109-1 longshot July 5 when he scored a stylish debut victory. Sunday, he will try to validate the win. Ruler's Court seeks more than validation; he seeks redemption. Runaway winner of his June 11 debut, Ruler's Court bombed next out as the 1-5 favorite in the Hollywood Juvenile. His trainer is willing to forgive the third-place finish, and suggests handicappers do the same.

Eleven runners entered the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal, which goes as race 2. The field includes Hollywood Juvenile winner Perfect Moon and runner-up Blairs Roarin Star, promising maiden winner Siphonizer, and six others. A 2-year-old allowance on Monday could reduce the size of the Best Pal field, in which Ruler's Court deserves another chance, according to trainer Eoin Harty."

If you don't see the head-on, you think he just ran a bad race," Harty said. "But he was hampered very badly by the horse inside him, who came out severely and bumped us. He lost all his action, and came back all scraped up. I think he's better than he showed. He's working well here, he's sound, he's fit, and he's happy."

Ruler's Court, owned by Dubai-based Darley Stud Management, won his debut with an 88 Beyer, tops in the field. David Flores rides. Siphonizer, ridden by Flores to an Aug. 2 debut win (86 Beyer), drew post 3 and will be ridden by Julie Krone. Meanwhile, Capitano may be the most interesting starter after a better-than-looked debut in which he paid $220.

Capitano broke slowly from the rail, zoomed to battle for the lead in 44.60, and edged clear by three-quarters of a length. "He's one of the nicest 2-year-olds I've had in a long time, and nothing was handed to him that day," trainer Ray Bell said. "He had to run from start to finish." Capitano, purchased privately after failing to meet his reserve at the Barretts March sale, earned a 79 Beyer. Three colts he defeated - runner-up Attack Alert, fourth-place finished Wild Babe, and last-place Feb Eleven have since returned to win. Jose Valdivia picks up the mount on Capitano, replacing injured rider Tony Lovato.