05/05/2004 12:00AM

Gygistar draws off in Westchester

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ELMONT, N.Y. - When Gygistar finished a closing fourth in the Grade 1 Carter last month, trainer Mark Hennig made a game plan to stretch him out in the one-mile Westchester Handicap on opening day of Belmont Park's spring meet.

Hennig's decision paid off when Gygistar powered to a 4 1/4-length victory over Saarland in the $109,500 Westchester before a crowd of 6,368.

After winning the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer at Belmont in July 2002, Gygistar raced exclusively in sprints. His biggest win came when he was 3, in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga in August 2002.

Hennig believes that age has dulled the 5-year-old Gygistar's speed a bit, so stretching him out was the logical move.

"We came to the conclusion after the last race that he is a step slower and a step older, but he is not a step slower at the wire," said Hennig, who trains Gygistar for Edward P. Evans. "The key was getting him at the proper distance and giving him a chance to be in the race."

Down the backstretch of the Grade 3 Westchester, Gygistar, under Joe Bravo, raced in fourth position, not far behind the early leaders. At the top of the stretch, Gygistar engaged in a three-way battle for the lead with Toccet, who had set the pace, and Formal Attire. Gygistar, who was racing on the outside, drew clear under a spirited hand ride with a furlong remaining.

Gygistar ($10) covered the distance in 1:35.89 over a fast track.

With his win in the Westchester, Gygistar, a son of Prospector's Music, boosted his record to 8-2-1 in 16 starts and his earnings to $668,485.

Lion Tamer, the 3-2 favorite in the seven-horse field, was never a factor and finished fifth.

Saarland finished 2 3/4 lengths in front of the third-place finisher, Black Silk.