09/10/2004 11:00PM

Magistretti shows he's the man

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Magistretti, the 3-1 second choice with Edgar Prado up, sails by Epalo, half of a favored Gary Tanaka-owned entry, in Saturday's Man o' War.

ELMONT, N.Y. - An extra furlong made all the difference for Magistretti, the 1 1/4-length winner of Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 at Belmont Park.

Epalo, the 2-1 favorite, finished second after owning the lead up until the final yards. It was another two lengths back in third to King's Drama, who was coupled in the wagering with Epalo as a Gary Tanaka-owned entry.

Magistretti made a bold move under Edgar Prado to wear down Epalo with a sixteenth of a mile remaining in the 1 3/8-mile turf race.

Andrasch Starke, Epalo's rider, said the distance beat his horse, who controlled the pace through fractions of 24.53 seconds, 50.05, 1:14.43, 1:38.17, and 2:02.14 over a yielding course. Surprisingly, Balto Star, a true speed horse, settled behind Epalo and King's Drama in the early going.

Epalo had a three-length lead as he sailed past the eighth pole on his way to what looked like a win. "I'm just disappointed because we knew the distance was too far," Starke said.

For Magistretti, who was closing with energy at the finish of the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million last month, the Man o' War's added distance was a bonus. Magistretti finished third in the Million, but was moved up to second when Powerscourt was disqualified for interference.

In the Man o' War, Magistretti was last after a mile. He saved ground around the far turn and was maneuvered to the outside by Prado for the stretch run.

"He seems to have a great kick," said Magistretti's trainer, Patrick Biancone. "He was in a bit of trouble at the quarter pole."

Magistretti returned $8.30. He covered the distance in 2:14.65, the fastest running of the Man o' War since 1998 when Daylami stopped the clock in 2:13.

Better Talk Now, Request for Parole, Ballingarry, Balto Star, and Greek Sun completed the order of finish.

Biancone took over the training of Magistretti, who is owned by Michael Tabor, after the Million. Neville Callaghan previously trained the 4-year-old in England.

"[Callaghan] did a great job with this horse. Congratulations to him," Biancone said.

Tabor said the fall stakes schedule for turf horses in this country appealed to him.

"We thought there was a few nice races here for him with obviously the Breeders' Cup [Turf] being one of them. I thought his time was to come here now," Tabor said.

Biancone said the most likely spot for Magistretti's next start is the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont on Oct. 2.