07/06/2002 12:00AM

Cetewayo sets record from 20 lengths behind


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Cetewayo demonstrated again Saturday what an exceptional old racehorse looks like.

Cetewayo, who won a Grade 1 race to start his 8-year-old season, came from 20 lengths behind to set a course record while winning the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Handicap at Arlington. Rallying relentlessly from the half-mile pole home, Cetewayo was up by a neck over Private Son, who just missed in his first turf stakes try.

Cetewayo, who began his career six years ago in a maiden-claiming race, won for the third time in five starts this year for trainer Michael Dickinson, who has managed to keep the horse in fine form despite his advancing age. In his first race this season, he won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup after going winless in an abbreviated 2001 campaign.

"He proves the theory I like to say about myself," joked a happy John Chandler, Cetewayo's owner and breeder. "The older you get, the better you get."

Cetewayo, along with several other horses, looked hopelessly beaten halfway through the 12-furlong turf race. Riddlesdown, tracked by Red Antics and Pisces, set a legitimate but wholly reasonable pace on a firm turf course, running a half-mile in 48.43 seconds and a half-mile in 1:12.64. But behind the top three, the rest of the field was strung out far behind the leaders. Cetewayo was seventh of nine for much of the race, and after a half-mile trailed Riddlesdown by just more than 19 lengths.

"We were so far back, I was kind of worried," said jockey Rene Douglas, who with Saturday's win on Cetewayo has won all three graded stakes races at this meet. "There was nothing I could do, so I just took my time. I didn't know if he could make up that much ground."

Riddlesdown remained clear into the stretch, then began backing up. First Pisces attacked, then Private Son, the horse Douglas had been tracking, launched a bid along the rail. But there came Cetewayo, coming out four wide and running on strongly two paths outside Private Son to prevail by a neck.

Cetewayo, favored at 9-5, paid $5.80 to win while running 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.50, eclipsing a course record that had stood since 1964. Private Son finished three-quarters of a length in front of Pisces for second.

Chandler wasn't sure which race he and Dickinson would target next, saying only that 12-furlong Grade 1 races would be on Cetewayo's agenda.