11/18/2004 12:00AM

Clock Stopper follows winning pattern

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Clock Stopper, sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint under Pat Day, switches Saturday to Jerry Bailey for the $300,000 De Francis Dash.

In 2001, Delaware Township finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, got a rider change to Jerry Bailey, and three weeks later won the Grade 1 . Dallas Stewart, the trainer of Clock Stopper, is hoping history repeats on Saturday.

Clock Stopper finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and will get a rider switch to Bailey for Saturday's $300,000 De Francis Dash. This year's De Francis will be run at Pimlico because Laurel Park's track surface is undergoing a makeover.

A field of 11 was entered in the De Francis, though trainer Todd Pletcher said he would run either True Direction or Lion Tamer, not both. As of Thursday morning, Pletcher was noncommittal.

The De Francis will go as the last of 10 races on a card that also features five other stakes, including two Grade 3 events, the Laurel Futurity and Anne Arundel Stakes. First post is 12:15 p.m.

There is a 50 percent chance of showers Saturday, which could alter the field for the

De Francis. Owner Mark Hopkins said A Huevo, last year's De Francis winner, would not run on an off track.

Clock Stopper is just 1 for 7 this year, but has run some very strong races. Clock Stopper has been beaten less than two lengths by Midas Eyes, who likely will be favored in the

De Francis; Speightstown, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint; and Champali, another top contender in the De Francis.

What has compromised Clock Stopper of late is a penchant for falling too far off the pace early on. In the BC Sprint, Clock Stopper was pinched at the break and was last of 13 for the first half-mile. In the stretch, he was blocked behind horses before rallying wide and was beaten only 3 1/4 lengths.

Stewart is hoping that Bailey - who won aboard Clock Stopper in August 2003 - can keep Clock Stopper closer earlier.

"I would think so,'' Stewart said. "As long as he's not too far back, he'll be okay. When you have a come-from-behind sprinter, you hope they go fast and the race collapses, but good horses don't collapse the last eighth of a mile, they keep going.''

Providing ample pace should be Abbondanza, who set the pace in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Shake You Down, and Philadelphia Jim. Midas Eyes, the Forego winner who finished 10th as the favorite in the BC Sprint, may have to use his speed from the rail.

Trainer Greg Foley said Champali was the victim of a "rough trip'' when he finished seventh in the BC Sprint. Champali was inside early and was bumped by Pt's Grey Eagle in the stretch before rallying along the rail.

"I wasn't going to beat the winner, but I should have been on the board,'' Foley said.

Shake You Down, second as the 4-5 De Francis favorite in 2003, enters this year's De Francis having not run since May. Shake You Down is 4 for 4 at Pimlico whereas he was 0 for 8 at Laurel entering last year's race.

A Huevo made a huge move wining last year's De Francis from off the pace. He has run just twice since, including a 19 1/4-length win in the West Virginia Breeders' Classic.

"He's up against it for a variety of reasons,'' Hopkins said, citing A Huevo's post, 2, and the turns at Pimlico, which he said are sharper than at Laurel. "He really has everything against him. But I still think he's the best horse.''

Gators N Bears, the 2003 Hirsch Jacobs winner, has been sidelined since mid-August due to a foot abscess. He was sharp winning the James B. Moseley Handicap in June.

Either of Pletcher's horses should offer value. True Direction, who won the 2002 Hirsch Jacobs, would be making his first start for Pletcher. Lion Tamer comes off a solid second in the Sport Page at Aqueduct.

Wildcat Heir, a close fourth in the Phoenix last out, completes the field.