04/26/2002 12:00AM

It's true: Pace makes the Sixty Sails race


CICERO, Ill. - It's become common knowledge: Speed is a good thing at Sportsman's Park. But in the Sixty Sails Handicap, there might be too much of a good thing.

Sunday's Grade 3, $300,000 Sixty Sails drew a field of seven, and perhaps four of them will gun for an early lead over a track that can promote front-runners hugging the inside rail. If the nine-furlong Sixty Sails gets speed crazy, it sets up perfectly for the best horse in the race, Pompeii, a Grade 1 winner who is at her best stalking the pace. Who better than Pat Day, in from Kentucky to ride Pompeii, to make the most of potentially advantageous circumstances?

But if anyone grabs a clear lead, the nature of the Sixty Sails changes entirely.

Breaking from post 1, With Ability is the most likely candidate to get loose, especially since she was quick enough early in her career to set the pace in several quickly run sprint stakes. Still, it's hard to see her shaking free from Pretty Gale, who broke from post 8 but still was fast enough from the gates to clear the field in the $100,000 Lady Hallie Handicap here.

For added evidence that making a solo lead will be tough if not impossible, look to Becky Virtue, a winner of four straight with front-end trips, and Katy Kat, whose best races have come close to the pace.

So the handicapping all leads back to Pompeii, who closed out her 2001 season with starts in four Grade 1 races.