02/07/2004 1:00AM

Light weight helps Alke whip Cajun Beat

Alke wins his fourth straight race since coming to Todd Pletcher's barn.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Alke continued his rapid rise among the nation's top sprinters by outracing Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat to capture Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 at Gulfstream Park.

Alke's ascension has coincided with his transfer to trainer Todd Pletcher, who has sent out Alke to four consecutive victories. The Deputy Minister was his first stakes try since joining Pletcher's barn. Because of that, he was generously weighted for the Deputy Minister, carrying 112 pounds, 11 less than Cajun Beat.

Cajun Beat and Alke dueled around the far turn and to midstretch, but then Alke put away the 4-5 favorite and drew away to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Cajun Beat finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of third-place Coach Jimi Lee, with Gygistar fourth.

Alke ($10.80) has now won 5 times in 9 starts, and Pletcher is hoping this latest victory will get Alke invited to the Dubai Golden Shaheen next month in the United Arab Emirates.

"Hopefully he did enough to earn a chance out there," said Pletcher, who said he would also consider a one-mile race in Dubai for Alke.

Alke, with John Velazquez up, went with Cajun Beat right from the start. They set sensible fractions of 23.04 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.05 for the half, and then Alke flew through the final five-sixteenths of a mile to cover 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:15.80.

"His last race here was huge," Pletcher said of Alke's third-level allowance victory on Jan. 8. "My biggest concern was if he could repeat that performance in a month and step up into this company."

Cajun Beat was seeking his fourth straight victory. He won the Mr. Prospector Handicap here five weeks ago. But his performance Saturday might have been compromised by a swift half-mile workout in 46.20 seconds five days before the race.

Cornelio Velasquez, who rode Cajun Beat, said his mount was uncomfortable racing inside of Alke.

"He didn't like getting pressure from the outside," Velasquez said.