09/29/2007 12:00AM

The Leopard earns spot in BC Juvenile turf

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - The Leopard may have found his spot on the turf.

After finishing a disappointing fifth in the Grade 2 Futurity on dirt two weeks ago, The Leopard responded with a switch to turf, recording a gate-to-wire 2 3/4-length-victory in Saturday's $81,000 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park. He Ain't Easy, also making his turf debut, finished second by 3 1/4 lengths over Grasberg.

The victory by The Leopard will earn him a place in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park on Oct. 26.

"That's what we were looking to find out," Pletcher said. "We had to run him back a little sooner than we wanted to, just to see where we were. We thought he was a little better colt than he showed in the Futurity, and he's got so much turf in his pedigree we decided to work him back last week. I worked him with Red Giant, the horse who won the Virginia Derby, and he worked head and head with him."

Under John Velazquez, The Leopard ran uncontested through fractions of 24.82 seconds, 49.17, and 1:13.89. The Leopard turned it on in the stretch and ran his final five-sixteenths of a mile in 27.72 seconds for a final time of 1:41.61. The Leopard, a son of Storm Cat who cost $2.5 million at auction this year, returned $3.60 as the favorite.

"The impressive part was the way he finished," Pletcher said. "He's been behind horses before, he will settle behind horses, there was just no other speed in there."

Dynamic Lisa: 'Contender' rallies

Favored Factual Contender rallied from off the pace under Eibar Coa to take the $78,250 Dynamic Lisa by a half-length over a trouble-tripped Rewrite. It was a neck back to Half Heaven in third.

It was the fourth victory from seven starts on turf for Factual Contender, who had shown speed in six of those seven starts. Saturday, shortening up in distance to a mile, Factual Contender was sixth in the early stages.

Factual Contender, trained by Barclay Tagg, rallied five wide in the stretch and had a clear run while Rewrite, who was bottled up in traffic in the stretch, could not find running room until late.

Factual Contender, a 6-year-old daughter of Thunder Puddles, covered the mile in 1:33.39 and returned $6.20 as the favorite.