07/20/2003 11:00PM

Deputy Storm celebrates Tyro win

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - There have been many joyous celebrations in the Monmouth Park winner's circle but few have matched owner James Spence's reaction following the victory by Deputy Storm Sunday afternoon in the $50,000 Tyro Stakes.

Flashing wide-grin, Spence sprinted onto the track to greet and pet his 2-year-old colt. Spence had enthusiastic high-fives and a hug for jockey Joe Bravo.

If this was cloud nine, Spence was in no hurry to get off.

Deputy Storm, a $340,000 yearling purchase, triggered the party with an easy win in Monmouth's traditional prep for the Grade 3, $100,000 Sapling Stakes on Aug. 9.

"The Sapling would be a logical spot since he's run well over this track," Spence said.

Deputy Storm ($4.00) broke alertly under Bravo and sprinted clear of the pack. He was never menaced, an under-wraps winner by four lengths over Kipper's Night in 1:03.73 for the 5 1-2 furlongs.

"He's a pretty fast horse," said Spence, barely able to suppress a laugh. "That's pretty obvious."

After Deputy Storm broke poorly in his first start, trainer Todd Pletcher added blinkers. The equipment change helped the son of Forestry gain his focus. Deputy Storm has posted a pair of powerful front-running wins since donning the hood.

Monmouth, traditionally a speed-favoring strip, played perfectly to Deputy Storm's strength.

He never had an anxious moment when Hasslefree, the 3-2 second choice trained by D. Wayne Lukas, broke slowly and finished a non-threatening third.

Spence, a real estate developer from Terre Haute, Ind., owns 30 horses with 10 in training. He goes back a long way with Pletcher, having sent the trainer horses when he first opened his own stable.

"He had two of mine and two from his dad," Spence said.

Now he has a colt with Pletcher that could be something special.

Only the Best took the other feature on the card, the $50,000 Anderson Fowler Stakes for 3-year-olds going five furlongs on the turf.

Only the Best ($10.40), with Carlos Cruz aboard, took charge on the backstretch and gradually widen his advantage.

Second in Command ran second with My Boy Kyle third.