03/08/2008 12:00AM

Commentator crushes Richter Scale

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - As Commentator approached the finish line well clear of his five outclassed rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Richter Scale Handicap, track announcer Larry Colmus proclaimed, "Here comes Commentator, the fastest horse in America."

"Not only is that plausible, it has the added advantage of maybe being true," trainer Nick Zito said when asked to respond to Colmus's statement.

At the present time, it's certainly hard to argue with Colmus or Zito after Commentator ($2.60) followed his track-record performance going a mile here earlier in the meet with an easy 13 3/4-length victory over the 61-1 Rexson's Rose in the Grade 2 Richter Scale.

Commentator had to withstand early pace pressure from Elite Squadron, who pushed the odds-on favorite through early fractions of 22.00 seconds and 45.04 over a track upgraded from good to fast earlier in the day. Commentator easily discouraged his early pursuer approaching the stretch, then steadily widened his advantage while under only mild encouragement from jockey John Velazquez, who posted the fourth of his five wins on the card.

Commentator covered the Richter Scale's seven furlongs in 1:23.23.

"He's just a tremendous horse," said Zito, who trains the 7-year-old Commentator for owner Tracy Farmer. "He's got ability and class and is just a real treasure. He's only made an average of 2.5 starts a year, so at this rate he'll probably run until he's 14."

Zito said he's uncertain what would be next for Commentator, although his ultimate goal is crystal clear.

"Mr. Farmer would love to win the Whitney with him again," said Zito. "He beat the Horse of the Year, Saint Liam, in 2005, and to do it again at the age of 7 would be the ultimate. He's had his share of problems along the way, but we'll keep him together the best we can and hope everything works out. He's a gelding, so he'll be running for the fans to watch - and that includes me, because I'm a fan myself."

The Very One: Clement wins again

Even changing the distance of the $100,000 The Very One Handicap from 1 3/8 miles to 1 1/8 miles on the morning of the race couldn't stop trainer Christophe Clement from winning the Grade 3 turf fixture for the sixth time with Mauralakana.

Heavy downpours earlier in the day prompted track management to shorten The Very One for "the safety of both the horses and riders," said Bernie Hettel, Gulfstream Park's racing operations manager. "We wanted to keep the race on the grass, but for that to happen we needed to move the rail to 84 feet, and with that in mind we felt the most prudent distance was a mile and one-eighth."

All the horsemen in the race supported that decision, including Clement.

"I probably got lucky," said Clement. "Although a mile and three furlongs would have been fine, I think a mile and one-quarter is probably her best distance, so going to a mile and one-eighth was not a big concern."

Mauralakana, who was purchased privately in November by owner Robert Scarborough after spending her 2007 campaign with trainer Patrick Biancone, had to alter course at the head of the stretch, then split rivals to wear down a game Tejida by a neck. Herboriste rallied to finish third. Rene Douglas rode Mauralakana, who paid $8.40 after covering the distance in 1:49.94 over a yielding course.

"She was a good filly last year with Patrick, a good filly in France at 3, and she's a good filly now," said Clement. "Our options are to stay here for the Orchid, go to Keeneland for the Jenny Wiley, or run in that new race at Calder, the Mairzy Doates."