02/17/2003 1:00AM

El General has reason to improve


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - As a half-brother to champion turf mare Perfect Sting, El General faced high expectations when he made it to the grass. He has failed to meet those expectations, and his connections took the most drastic of measures to try and turn his career around.

When El General runs in Wednesday's featured second-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park, he will do so as a gelding for the first time. El General, owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Malcolm Pierce, has won only two of his first 10 starts and should offer value in a full and contentious field.

El General has shown glimpses of talent, such as when he won his maiden over the Gulfstream turf course 13 months ago and when he took an entry-level allowance race at Woodbine in September. After a couple of troubled trips at Woodbine and a dull sixth in this condition on Jan. 4, the decision was made to geld El General.

"I think it's improved him,'' said Pierce, who is 4 for 15 at this meet. "He was kind of sulky. His attitude is a little better. We're sure hoping that's the answer. He should have won more than two races by now.''

El General has worked four times since his last race, including a sharp half-mile move in 47.40 seconds Feb. 13, the second-fastest of 38 at the distance.

Westcliffe, who makes his seasonal debut for trainer Christophe Clement, is the horse to beat in Wednesday's 1 1/16-mile turf race. As a 3-year-old, Westcliffe won 2 of 7 starts and finished third in the Grade 3 Hill Prince, two lengths behind Van Minister, who is in Wednesday's field as well. Westcliffe last raced on Sept. 13 when he finished fifth in the Rushing Man Stakes at The Meadowlands.

"He came back sore from that race, and we gave him some time,'' Clement said. "Overall, he's a pretty unlucky horse. He's has never been to a stakes with all the conditions right for him.''

Clement said Westcliffe would prefer firm ground.

Camp David, who raced against High Chaparral and Castle Gandolfo last year in Europe, won his only start on turf in North America last June. The horse he beat that day, Onlycook Halfofit, has won twice from six starts since then, including an allowance victory here on Jan. 4. That day he beat El General and Be a Smooth Talker, who breaks from post 10 but gets Jerry Bailey in Wednesday's allowance race.

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