03/17/2005 12:00AM

Hawthorne: Never Give In looks good

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With only nine starts in his career, the 6-year-old gelding Never Give In is lightly raced. He also is rarely beaten.

Never Give In ran in six races during 2004 and won four of them. At Hawthorne, he has never lost, winning all three of his starts, and that is one good reason to accord Never Give In a decent chance to win the featured sixth race.

The race is for third-level allowance horses or $35,000 claimers at six furlongs. It was meant to supplement an overnight sprint stakes for 3-year-old males, but that race failed to attract sufficient entries on Tuesday and was scrapped.

Never Give In takes a step up in class, having won a second-level sprint allowance in his most recent start, though Oct. 9 hardly qualifies as recent. Still, the layoff he brings into Saturday's race is nothing compared to an earlier gap in activity. Never Give In began his career midway through 2001 in the New York stable of Bill Mott, but after three starts, something went seriously amiss. When the horse resurfaced, it was the spring of 2004, and Never Give In was owned and trained by Rey Aguirre, a steady but lower-level participant on this circuit.

Aguirre ran Never Give In cheap in his first start back, and he won a $10,000 nonwinners-of-two claimer by more than six lengths, the last time the horse has started for a claiming price. In fact, Never Give In did not run a bad race all last year; both of his losses came with troubled trips, and when Never Give In had a clean run, he made the most of it.

The setup is right again Saturday, since Never Give In has post 6 in a field of seven and can stalk the pace of two speedballs, Edgerrin and Storm the Beach. Those two hooked up in a race at this class level here Feb. 27, and Edgerrin, who would fade to ninth, applied enough early pace pressure on favored Storm the Beach to get him beaten by a head. Neither horse seems likely to back off Saturday, though Storm the Beach might be good enough to overcome a difficult trip.

If Never Give In fails to show up, Iceplosion might have a chance to run down dueling leaders. He came from seventh to finish third, a length behind Storm the Beach, last time out, and has come very close to clearing this allowance condition before.