07/03/2001 11:00PM

A Lukas sprinter is born

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ELMONT, N.Y. - D. Wayne Lukas probably didn't convince Satish Sanan to spend $1.4 million on Exchange Rate with the promise of turning him into a sprinter.

But if Exchange Rate is to give Lukas and Sanan's Padua Stable a profit on their investment it looks like that's the game he will have to play. Wednesday, Exchange Rate played it perfectly, earning a hard-fought head decision over Say Florida Sandy in the $150,000, Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap before 19,273 at Belmont Park.

It was the first graded stakes victory for Exchange Rate, a son of Danzig. He had previously won the Northern Dancer Handicap and the Risen Star, both ungraded races. He was coming off a last-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap, when he didn't care for the mud.

Lukas held Jerry Bailey to his call on Exchange Rate, which Bailey gave after he got word that Trippi suffered a slight injury during a workout on Friday. Trippi was entered, but he was scratched on Wednesday morning by trainer Todd Pletcher.

That left Here's Zealous as the main speed, so Bailey made sure he kept Exchange Rate close to him. However, that would only be possible if the horse obliged.

"This horse has a mind of his own," said Mike Marlow, assistant to Lukas. "When he breaks, you got to tell the rider [to] let him pick his own spot whether he wants to lay close or wants to come from back."

Bailey kept Exchange Rate right off the flank of Here's Zealous, who carved out fractions of 22.29 seconds, 44.69 and 1:08.48. While Bailey had Exchange Rate outside of Here's Zealous, Aaron Gryder had Say Florida Sandy to his inside and close up. Say Florida Sandy made the lead inside the eighth pole but Exchange Rate was able to wear him down.

Exchange Rate ran the seven furlongs in 1:21.24 and returned $15.

Peeping Tom, the even-money favorite, finished last under Shaun Bridgmohan. Peeping Tom had suffered a bruised foot in the Met Mile, although trainer Pat Reynolds thought that was behind him.

"He didn't have any desire to get involved in the early part of it," said Reynolds, who did not use the foot as an excuse. "When he does not make that run, you know there's something amiss. We'll look him over."

Affirmed Success wins Poker again

Affirmed Success took control soon after the start and then had enough class to hold off the late-running In Frank's Honor to win the $110,400, Grade 3 Poker Handicap by a neck. It was another half-length back to Union One in third.

It was the second straight year that Affirmed Success won the Poker. Carrying highweight of 121 pounds under Bailey, Affirmed Success maintained a measured half-length advantage through fractions of 23.49 seconds and 46.53. Turning for home, Bailey opened up on the field and had just enough to hold off In Frank's Honor, to whom he was conceding seven pounds.

"The key was getting a pretty comfortable first half," Bailey said.

Affirmed Success ran the mile in 1:34.60 over firm turf and paid $3.20.