11/13/2001 12:00AM

Lack of pace the problem for favorite

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Six starts into Disturbingthepeace's career, trainer Darrell Vienna expected him to already have leaped past the first allowance condition for California-breds.

"It's unbelievable he's still eligible to this condition, the condition that is supposed to be so easy," Vienna said.

Turns out, it's not so easy after all, and as Vienna admitted: "It's a testimony to the Cal-breds that he [Disturbingthepeace] runs these big races and doesn't win."

Handicappers, of course, are not required to agree with Vienna. Disturbingthepeace will be favored again Thursday in a seven-furlong sprint, but many bettors will quarrel with the trainer's enthusiasm. While Disturbingthepeace's consistency is admirable, he falls short in one crucial handicapping fundamental - pace.

In fact, Disturbingthepeace has never achieved a pace figure that equals par for a first-condition sprint. The vulnerability already has been exposed twice - when he finished second Oct. 3 after a tough trip and again Oct. 24 when he chased home a loose-on-the-lead front-runner. Compromising trips are characteristic of sprinters with pace-figure deficiencies. They often find trouble, and are always at the mercy of the speed.

This is not to suggest Disturbingthepeace cannot win. In fact, the eight-runner field came up weak and he may be the right horse. With one win and three seconds from six starts, however, Disturbingthepeace offers negligible wagering value. While some handicappers will mistakenly believe seven furlongs is ideal for him, others will seek value elsewhere.

Fortunately, a sensible alternative presents itself. Before Disturbingthepace and Laffit Pincay Jr. can win the race, they must catch the pacesetter. In the case of front-runner Simony, it might not happen.

Simony had been off for five months when he returned Aug. 15 at Del Mar for trainer Scott Hansen. He spun his wheels and finished eighth. Hansen switched shoes for Simony's next start, and the 4-year-old romped. He was slightly overmatched in three subsequent starts, but returned to peak form Nov. 3 in an unusually tough $32,000 starter allowance on California Cup Day.

Simony sped to the front, was hounded through severe fractions, and only tired late. When he breaks from post 1on Thursday, Simony and jockey Iggy Puglisi figure to fall into the lead and race gate to wire.

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