09/21/2001 11:00PM

Left Bank beats 'Squirtle' in fast Vosburgh

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NEW YORK, N.Y. - Left Bank ran the fastest Vosburgh ever run at Belmont Park, and in the process stamped himself as a top Breeders' Cup Sprint contender with an impressive victory in the Grade 1, $300,000 seven furlong feature at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Left Bank, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Michael Tabor, pressed a fast pace set by 3-5 post time favorite Squirtle Squirt, and took charge in mid-stretch to win by a half-length in a time of 1.20.78. The clocking was the second-fastest in 62 runnings of the Vosburgh. The time was two-fifths shy of Dr. Fager's Vosburgh record time of 1:20 1/5 which was set in 1968 when the race was run at Aqueduct.

Left Bank, ridden to victory by John Velezquez, paid $9.50 to win in a field of six horses. It was the second stakes win on the card for Velazquez as well as Pletcher. Velazquez had won the Jerome aboard Express Tour, Pletcher won the Noble Damsel with Tugger.

Squirtle Squirt, the winner of last month's Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga, held on for second after establishing a clear lead in fractions of :22.72, and :44.57. It was another 9 3/4-lengths back to longshot Big EE who closed for third.

Say Florida Sandy, the third-choice in the race at 4-1 odds, finished fourth. Peeping Tom, the morning-line second-choice, was scratched.

Saturday's attendance for Belmont Park's 11-race card which included four stakes races was 8,723.

Tugger wins off-the-turf Noble Damsel

In the race before the Vosburgh, Tugger led all the way to win the $100,000-added Noble Damsel Handicap at mile for fillies and mares. The race was originally scheduled as a Grade 3 at a mile on the turf, but was moved to the main track after heavy rains pelted the New York area early Friday. Only six horses ran in a field which scratched down from 14 entries.

Tugger established a clear lead in fractions of :22.79, and :45.65 and won by 1 length in a time of 1:35.18. She was never seriously challenged. Tugger, trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Anstu Stables, was ridden by Jerry Bailey, who picked up the mount after his first preference, Iftiraas, scratched.

The 6-5 post time favorite, Shine Again, chased the winner all the way around the track and held on for second while just a head in front of third-place finisher Tippity Witch.