03/21/2002 1:00AM

Cetewayo set to get on the good foot

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sometime early Saturday afternoon, trainer Michael Dickinson will take his customary stroll around the Gulfstream Park turf course. His mission is to assure that the footing is safe for his multiple Grade 1 winner Cetewayo later that day in the $250,000 Pan American Handicap. If Dickinson finds the footing to his satisfaction, Cetewayo's 10 rivals may well be running for second money in the Grade 2 event.

Cetewayo returned from a three-month vacation to dominate the 1 3/8-mile Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap by 3 1/4 widening lengths over a yielding course earlier in the session. And Dickinson said Cetewayo's regular rider on his Tapeta Farm in Maryland has told him Cetewayo, an 8-year-old son of His Majesty, is training as well as, if not better, than before his last race.

"He's certainly doing very well coming into the race, and the extra eighth of a mile won't hurt his chances any," said Dickinson of the 1 1/2 miles of the Pan Am. "The course is probably a little firmer and more speed-favoring than it was when he won last month, so you'll probably see him closer to the pace this time."

Cornelio Velasquez, who put up a perfect ride on Cetewayo in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup, will have the mount again for the Pan Am.

Cetewayo's competition, from the rail out, is Drama Critic, Backatitagain, Craigsteel, Zafonic's Song, Honor Glide, Deeliteful Irving, Eltawaasul, Whata Brainstorm, Mr. Livingston, and Monkey Puzzle.

Whata Brainstorm will be back to defend his title in the Pan Am and comes in off a sharp prep, losing by a nose to Stokosky under allowance conditions in his first start in 11 months. Whata Brainstorm rallied to an easy win in the 2001 Pan Am only to go to the sidelines for the remainder of the season after fracturing a sesamoid in the Explosive Bid Handicap, where he ran fourth.

"It should set him up nicely for this one. He looks like he's back to his old self," said Whata Brainstorm's trainer, Jim Picou. "Obviously he loves the distance but my main concern is that he hasn't run a mile and a half in a long time, and it could be hard on him the first time."

Eltawaasul, who finished a tiring fourth after disputing the pace in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap, should benefit from the speed-conducive nature of the turf course, while Drama Critic, like Cetewayo a Grade 1 winner, will also appreciate the firmer ground.

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