09/08/2001 12:00AM

Exogenous finally has day in sun


ELMONT, N.Y. - After running into division leaders Flute and Fleet Renee on their best days, it was finally time for Exogenous to put her best foot forward in Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap at Belmont Park.

Equipped with blinkers for the first time, Exogenous ran the best race of her career Saturday to take the $250,000 Gazelle Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths over longshot Two Item Limit, who nosed out 3-5 favorite Fleet Renee for second.

Completing the order of finish were Transcendental, Starrer, Caressing, Real Cozzy, and Indy Pick.

Exogenous, a daughter of Unbridled, had run in three Grade 1 races prior to the Gazelle. She finished third behind Fleet Renee in the Mother Goose, second behind Tweedside in the Coaching Club American Oaks, and second to Flute in the Alabama.

In the Alabama, Exogenous raced greenly, weaving in and out in the stretch. Jockey Javier Castellano suggested to trainer Scotty Schulhofer that Exogenous get blinkers for her next start.

Although Exogenous broke last in the Gazelle, she was soon up into the race and sitting fifth behind a four-horse speed duel consisting of Indy Pick, Caressing, Starrer, and Fleet Renee, who were heads apart through a half-mile in 45.81 seconds.

Around the turn, two other horses went past Exogenous, but Castellano sat chilly, and at the three-eighths pole Exogenous was again fifth. Turning for home Castellano saw an inviting opening along the rail and guided Exogenous through, and she blew past a weakening Fleet Renee and drew off.

Exogenous, owned and bred by Vernon G. Heath's Centaur Farms Inc., covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.68 over a fast track and returned $20.60 to win.

"I tried to settle her down because I know the stretch is long and I didn't want to use her before then," said the 23-year-old Castellano, who captured the first Grade 1 of his career. "When the rail opened I thought, There's my opportunity. I tried to make her run and she responded."

Randy Schulhofer, assistant to his father, Scotty, said Exogenous would be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Distaff here Oct. 27.

Fleet Renee, who hadn't run in 10 weeks, was "very upset" in the starting gate, according to jockey John Velazquez.

"She came out running and I didn't want to choke her down because if I choked her down she wouldn't run her race," Velazquez. "But I had to take a hold of her; she was going too fast."