09/30/2005 11:00PM

Magna Graduate breaks through in Pegasus

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Bill Denver/ EQUI-PHOTOS
Magna Graduate wins the Pegasus Stakes at the Meadowlands Friday.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Magna Graduate has been knocking on the door throughout his 3-year-old season. Friday night at The Meadowlands, he finally arrived.

With a five-race losing streak in tow, including recent runner-up finishes in the West Virginia Derby and Ohio Derby, Magna Graduate reversed a hard-luck 3-year-old season with a win in the Grade 3, $250,000 on opening night at the Big M.

Crown Point, the longest shot at 54-1, stubbornly battled with Magna Graduate through much of the stretch and ended up 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner. Network finished 5 3/4 lengths behind Crown Point in third.

Magna Graduate, the favorite in the eight-horse field, paid $6. Belmont Stakes runner-up Andromeda's Hero, the second choice, finished fourth.

Velazquez guided Magna Graduate into a perfect position out of the gate. As Tani Maru, Golden Man, and Doctor Voodoo dueled through sharp opening fractions of 24.19 and 47.31 seconds, Magna Graduate bided his time in fourth, along the rail. At the top of the stretch, Velazquez took Magna Graduate off the fence and then made the lead rather easily from the tiring pacesetters.

But Crown Point, with Jose Espinoza in the saddle, came to the flank of Magna Graduate and they dueled until the final 70 yards. Magna Graduate found another gear in deep stretch and kicked clear to cover the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.47.

"We ended up getting stuck on the inside, but he was going so well, I could just bide my time and save ground," Velazquez said. "We inherited the lead a little earlier than I would have liked, but when the other horse [Crown Point] came to him, he had plenty left and he responded right away."

Magna Graduate, owned by Elisabeth Alexander, was transferred from Patrick Byrne to Todd Pletcher after finishing fourth in the Lone Star Derby in May. This was his third start for Pletcher, who said he might bring the colt back in the Discovery Handicap on the Breeders' Cup undercard.

"When we got him he was already a nice horse," Pletcher said. "Pat did a good job with him. He kind of matured through the fall of his 3-year-old season."

* In the first division of the $60,000 Navajo Princess Stakes, Brunilda ($10.40) wore down pacesetting The Lamp Is Lit in deep stretch to win by a half-length. With Eibar Coa aboard, Brunilda covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.26. She is trained by Stanley Hough.

Movie Star, a Group 1 winner in Brazil, turned her North American debut into a successful one, winning the second division of the Navajo Princess. With Rafael Bejarano aboard, Movie Star defeated Briviesca by one length. Making her first start for trainer Bobby Frankel, 4-year-old Movie Star ($5.60) covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.21.

* In a field reduced to three, the Steve Asmussen-trained Two Down Automatic ($7.80) surged in the final strides to catch 1-2 favorite The Student by a half-length to win the $60,000 Eillo Stakes.