08/31/2004 11:00PM

Expect a quick pace in Troy

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Golden Commander has two streaks in play in the $65,000-added Troy at Saratoga on Friday. A 4-year-old New York-bred, he has yet to win in open company, but is also undefeated in three starts at Saratoga.

Golden Commander is part of a very competitive inaugural running of the Troy, for 4-year-olds and up at one mile on the turf. The Troy has drawn a field of nine, with an additional six horses listed as main-track only. If the race is moved to the main track, it will be run at seven furlongs.

enters the Troy off his first stakes win, in the West Point Handicap here Aug. 15. In that race, he defeated Irish Colonial, who was third in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch this meet. This year, Golden Commander has finished in the money in five starts, including a third-place finish in the Kingston Handicap at Belmont. Trainer Phil Serpe said the reason for the improved performance is clear: Golden Commander was gelded last fall and then given the winter off.

"He was very difficult to train and very difficult to ride," Serpe said. "Gelding him has made everyone's life a lot easier. His performance level has really gone up."

The pace should be swift in the Troy, which benefits the late-closing Golden Commander. is a stakes winner at five furlongs on the turf, and Voodoo is a graded-stakes winner in dirt sprints.

is the wild card in the Troy. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Little Jim was a multiple Group 1 winner in Argentina as a juvenile, and was then acquired by Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum and brought to Dubai. He won a Group 3 there, his fifth victory in as many career starts, before running third in his next two starts, including the UAE Derby.

In his only grass start, Little Jim finished first but was disqualified to third in the Group 1 Estrellas Juvenile at one mile in Argentina.

In his first U.S. start, on July 30 at Saratoga, Little Jim raced four wide around the turn into extremely quick fractions of 22.08 and 44.37 seconds and finished fourth.

"He wasn't really used to those types of fractions," McLaughlin said. "But he has trained really well since."

is now a 7-year-old, but continues to turn in solid performances in graded stakes. He should find the competition somewhat easier in the Troy.