10/26/2007 12:00AM

Epitome: Sea Chanter prevails

EmailTodd Pletcher and John Velazquez started off Breeders' Cup weekend the right way, striking with their first stakes opportunity as Sea Chanter, benefiting from a terrific stalking trip, drove to victory Friday in the $250,000 Epitome Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Sea Chanter, a Stonerside Stable homebred by War Chant, gradually moved into contention in the one-mile turf race before taking command inside the furlong pole. Nearing the sixteenth pole, it appeared that Annie Skates, the early trailer ridden by Garrett Gomez, may have had enough momentum to overtake her, but Sea Chanter dug in to prevail by three-quarters of a length. Grace and Power also rallied late to finish third, another 1 1/4 lengths behind Annie Skates.

Sea Chanter returned $18.40 as the fifth choice after finishing in 1:39.21 over a yielding course. The victory was her second in five career starts and followed a runner-up finish behind Namaste's Wish last month in the Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park. Namaste's Wish finished fifth Friday as the 2-1 favorite.

"The way the turf is, I didn't want to be too close up," said Velazquez. "I took a peek at the eighth pole and saw the other horse coming, but my filly responded."

"Running her on the soft turf was just an experiment, but we were optimistic," said Pletcher.

Pletcher and Velazquez were scheduled to team with several major Breeders' Cup contenders this weekend, including Lawyer Ron in the BC Classic and English Channel in the BC Turf.- Marty McGee