07/23/2003 11:00PM

Chapel Royal rolls home in Sanford

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Chapel Royal jumped to the head of the class in Todd Pletcher's 2-year-old division Thursday, which is akin to saying he is the best 2-year-old on the East Coast.

Demonstrating the ability to sit off horses, Chapel Royal made a three-wide move around the turn, collared dueling leaders in upper stretch, and drew clear for a decisive 5 3/4-length score in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sanford at sloppy Saratoga. The second day of the meet had an announced crowd of 30,500 on Edgar Prado bobblehead doll day.

It was Pletcher's sixth stakes win of the year in the male juvenile division and came a day after he won the Grade 2 Schuylerville for juvenile fillies with Ashado. The only bad news for Pletcher was that Heckle, who won the Tremont last month, finished last in the Sanford after stumbling at the break.

Chapel Royal, a son of Montbrook, had shown great speed in winning his first two starts, including the Grade 3 Flash last month at Belmont. Pletcher wanted to see how Chapel Royal would do coming from off the pace, which is why he worked him behind a horse on Monday at Belmont Park.

"Sometimes you get a horse get hit in the face with dirt, they back up," Pletcher said. "He kind of pinned his ears and ran into it. I felt confident he'd handle that part of it, but I wasn't sure about the mud; that's a different part of the equation."

Chapel Royal, under John Velazquez, settled nicely while down on the inside as Boston Brahmin and Flushing Meadows dueled through fractions of 21.59 seconds and 44.97. Velazquez tipped Chapel Royal three wide approaching the quarter pole, and the colt powered down the lane despite jumping puddles twice in the final furlong.

Chapel Royal, owned by Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, covered the six furlongs in 1:10.74 and returned $4 as the favorite. Chapel Royal will most likely make his next start in the Grade 1 Hopeful on Aug. 30.