12/23/2003 1:00AM

Klesaris has player for Gallant Fox


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - While trainer Bruce Levine has dominated the Gallant Fox Handicap, winning four of the last five runnings, Steve Klesaris knows a thing or two himself about winning the marathon stakes race for older horses.

Klesaris won back-to-back runnings of the 13-furlong Gallant Fox with Yourmissinthepoint (1995) and Ave's Flag (1996). Saturday at Aqueduct, Klesaris will seek his third Gallant Fox trophy with Tailfromthecrypt, one of several contenders in a wide-open 65th running of the stakes honoring the 1930 Triple Crown winner.

Tailfromthecrypt has shown a fondness for Aqueduct's inner track with a record of 3-1-0 from 5 starts. He went 3 for 4 over the inner oval last winter and comes off a second-place finish to probable Gallant Fox favorite Jarf in a starter handicap race here on Dec. 10.

In that race, Tailfromthecrypt got off to a troubled start and closed well in just his second start since coming off tendon surgery. Jarf went gate to wire to win that race.

"I think the track was very speed-conducive that whole day," Klesaris said. "With what happened at the start we were back further than we wanted to be and closed the gap pretty well."

Klesaris believes that Tailfromthecrypt has the necessary stamina to go the 1 5/8 miles of the Gallant Fox.

"I think he's got the conditioning and the pedigree to get the distance," Klesaris said. "He's a horse with some class. He comes with his troubles, but he's fresh, he's healthy and he's coming into this race very good."

Chuck Lopez, who rode the winner of the 1997 and 1998 runnings of the Gallant Fox, has the call from post 6 in the 10-horse field.

Klesaris believes the Gallant Fox is a race won by a horse who runs on or close to the pace. Tailfromthecrypt projects to get a stalking trip behind Phish, Jarf, Golden Ticket, and Patriot's Song, all horses who like to race on the front end.

Jarf, a 7-year-old gelding trained by Allen Iwinski, is 12 for 37 lifetime and has enjoyed success over the inner track. He must overcome the outside post and high weight of 118 pounds.

Golden Ticket, based at Philadelphia Park with trainer Clifford Sise, is a known commodity at marathon distances, with two wins at 11 furlongs and one win at 12 furlongs.

Levine, who won the last three runnings of this race with Coyote Lakes, saddles Patriot's Song, who won by 18 1/2 lengths the last time he ran on dirt.