02/14/2005 1:00AM

Celtic Memories has it easier


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Celtic Memories was a bit out of his element when he failed to make the lead in his 2005 debut. He also had the misfortune to be a part of the fastest one-mile turf race ever run and finish fourth behind Mr. Light's world-record-setting performance here on opening day.

The pace scenario figures to be more in his favor and the race likely to go considerably slower when Celtic Memories returns as the horse to beat against 10 rivals in Wednesday's $37,000 allowance feature at 1 1/8 miles on the grass.

was hung wide after breaking from post 12 while chasing lightning-fast fractions of 22.91 seconds, 44.80, and 1:07.76 on opening day. But instead of throwing in the towel, Celtic Memories continued to hold his ground, and while no match for Mr. Light, he finished just two necks out of second place behind the stakes-caliber Icy Atlantic.

Celtic Memories will move in a couple of slots, breaking from post 10, and should be dangerous if he is able to make the lead, as expected. He led all the way to win his second-level allowance condition going 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park on Sept. 16 and then finish second in a third-level allowance race over the same course and distance just nine days later.

Go Deputy, who also exits the Mr. Light race, and European may prove the ones to beat.

was making his first start in nearly 14 months when he rallied from last to finish fifth, just a neck behind Celtic Memories, when the pair met on opening day. A son of Deputy Minister, he figures to attract plenty of mutuel support coming out of the barn of leading trainer Todd Pletcher and with John Velazquez aboard. Velazquez rode the stretch-running Go Deputy to each of his three previous victories, all of which came during his 3-year-old campaign in 2003.

also returned from an extended vacation when he finished a troubled third under similar allowance conditions on Jan. 23. Idle since June 4 and making his first start since being switched to trainer Michael Matz's barn, European was beaten less than two lengths by Bankruptcy Court despite encountering trouble and being forced to steady on the far turn.