02/05/2002 12:00AM

'Fleet' ready to sail again

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The handicap ranks in trainer Bill Mott's barn were depleted when he lost stakes winners Mongoose and Ubiquity to trainer James Bond. But reserve troops could be on the way.

This Fleet Is Due, away from the races since August, makes his 4-year-old debut Thursday in a third-level allowance/optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park. He will face five rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race, which is worth $38,000.

*, a son of Devil His Due, appeared to be coming to hand for Mott last spring and summer when he won a pair of allowance races at Belmont Park before finishing second to Grade 1 winner Burning Roma in the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park.

This Fleet Is Due ran well enough in the Long Branch to earn a start in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, in which he finished fourth, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths by Point Given. While training for a start in the Travers Stakes, This Fleet Is Due popped a splint and was sidelined.

"He was showing some promise," Mott said. "For a while we were questioning if he was going to get two turns or not."

Though all three of his victories have been around one turn, This Fleet Is Due seems well spotted to win his first two-turn race on Thursday. This Fleet Is Due should get pace to run at with the likes of Paging and Justification in the field, and Mott has put several stamina-building workouts in the horse at Payson Park.

"I'd like to see him win," Mott said when asked his expectations for This Fleet Is Due's first race in six months.

Mott plans to take the blinkers off This Fleet Is Due, who will be ridden by Pat Day from post 3.

This Fleet Is Due is one of two entrants in the field not in for a claiming tag. Paging, a winner of a second-level allowance race here on Jan. 18, is the other. Paging, running with blinkers off, came off two-month layoff to record a front-running, 1 1/4-length victory going seven furlongs on Jan. 18. He is winless in four tries at the 1 1/16-mile distance.

You Know Who could be the major threat if he duplicates his form of last winter, when he won a pair of allowance races over this track. Both wins came at 1 1/16 miles.

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