04/03/2008 12:00AM

Nite Light guns for fifth straight win


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Though Horse of the Year Curlin arrived in New York Wednesday night from Dubai, the connections of all the older horses on the grounds can rest easy. He's here only to serve two days in quarantine, not to run in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct.

While the Excelsior lacks a standout such as Curlin, it did come up with a solid nine-horse field led by Nite Light and Wafi City, two horses in search of their first graded stakes victory. Defending Excelsior winner Magna Graduate and the veteran Evening Attire also are entered.

Nite Light has won four consecutive races, including three stakes. Though he seems to prefer the front end, he came from 15 lengths off the pace in the John Campbell Handicap at Laurel after Happy Surprise ran off to a huge early lead. That he was able to come from that far off the pace and be effective at 1 1/8 miles demonstrated the versatility that could make Nite Light a player in the handicap division later in the year.

"The last race was a key race in terms of where we were with him," said Nite Light's trainer, Todd Pletcher, who also will saddle Magna Graduate. "Obviously, he's shown that he can be effective at the marathon-type distances. Last time, he was back to the shorter distances and he ran equally as well."

Nite Light, who won the Gallant Fox by 10 lengths in the mud, will break from post 3 under Mike Luzzi.

Night Light may find himself in a stalking position behind Temporary Saint, a speedy son of Awesome Again who is in excellent form for trainer Bruce Levine.

Wafi City, a son of E Dubai trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, comes off a 9o1/2-length score in a second-level allowance race over the inner track. He ran a mile and 70 yards in 1:40.60 while never being hit, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 109. This will be his first start at 1 1/8 miles.

"He's run two of his best races going long," said McLaughlin, noting Wafi City ran second in the 2006 Gotham. "Being that he's fit and doing well, I don't think distance will be a problem."

McLaughlin also will start Aqueduct Handicap winner Angliana.

Naughty New Yorker, second to Magna Graduate in last year's Excelsior, has won his last two starts and could go over $1 million in career earnings with a top-two finish in this race. Evening Attire would appreciate a wet track and a fast pace.