07/07/2001 12:00AM

Juggernaut upsets Criterium


MIAMI - Juggernaut lost his career debut under a $32,000 claiming tag but became a stakes winner two starts later when he unleashed a powerful closing rally that easily carried him to a two-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 Criterium Stakes at Calder.

Juggernaut raced wide and appeared hopelessly out of contention under apprentice Abel Castellano Jr. during the opening half-mile of the 5 1/2-furlong Criterium. But once he angled out well past the middle of the track leaving the turn he launched a furious closing surge to readily run down Pure Precision, the 3-5 favorite, in the final 70 yards.

Pure Precision was a step slow leaving the gate, rushed up between horses to contest the pace, shook free at midstretch but could not contain the winner while failing to change leads through the stretch.

Bog Hunter overcame a slow start and early trouble to finish a well-beaten third, with Tabac, the 2-1 second choice, a disappointing fourth.

Juggernaut, who easily defeated maiden allowance company in his second start, paid $23.80 after completing the distance in 1:06.79 over a good track.

"He's been doing real well but we knew we had to beat the two big horses," said winning trainer Larry Pilotti, who conditions the winner for Siobhan Ellison. "He was a little green and silly when he came in from the farm so we took a shot and ran him for a tag trying to win the first time out.

"Give the jock a lot of the credit for this one," Pilotti added. "He sat back on this horse and was very patient for an apprentice, then just swung him out and let him roll the last part of it."

Earlier in the day, Dispersed Award ($26.80) overtook the pacesetting I No Best in deep stretch to post a three-quarters of a length victory in the $50,000 Georgia Stakes. Horacio Karamanos rode the winner, who ran a mile over a yielding turf course in 1:38.15. Queen of Oz, the 9-5 favorite, finished a non-threatening seventh.