08/20/2003 12:00AM

Pants N Kisses stays home, takes on older


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Pants N Kisses, a dull third last time out in the Grade 3 Manitoba Derby, will meet older opponents in Friday's Woodbine feature, a second-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles.

Pants N Kisses closed strongly from just off the pace to take the nine-furlong Victoria Park Stakes three starts ago, and he subsequently finished fifth of six in the Grade 3 Toronto Cup Handicap on turf.

Trainer Dave Cotey shipped Pants N Kisses to Winnipeg for the nine-furlong Manitoba Derby Aug. 4, but came away disappointed when the gelding finished 4 1/2 lengths back under Constant Montpellier as the 2-1 second choice.

"He got bumped a little coming out of the gate," Cotey said. Montpellier, said Cotey, "had to ride him from the get-go, and he was 15 or 16 lengths out of it. He managed to close from last, and I'm amazed we got third. I don't know what his problem was, but he didn't run very well."

Cotey had seriously considered Saturday's Grade 3 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park for Pants N Kisses, but said he decided to forgo the long trip to Edmonton, Alberta, when Friday's race here filled.

Montpellier retains the mount on Pants N Kisses, who had a half-mile maintenance work in 50.20 seconds on Monday.

Also entered in the $74,400 race are Tax Deferred, Summersville, Above Justice, Awesome Action, Hydrogen, and Sting Man.

Tax Deferred and Above Justice are both coming off powerful front-running victories. Both won off a layoff and are susceptible to a bounce.

Tax Deferred set rapid fractions in a six-furlong allowance July 27, and held on to prevail by daylight while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 90. He has won 5 of 10 starts at 1 1/16 miles, and figures to outsprint the other speed into the clubhouse turn.

Above Justice helped set a slow pace in a 1 1/16-mile allowance July 25, and went on to score comfortably while hanging up a Beyer Figure of 93. He has worked a bullet six furlongs in the interim, and has displayed some closing ability in the past.

Awesome Action rallied stoutly in the mud to capture a 6 1/2-furlong allowance 20 days ago. His two route efforts were both decent, but he is probably at his best as a closing sprinter.

Sting Man led throughout a one-mile allowance on turf July 19, and would appear to prefer that surface, although he nearly won a $40,000 claimer on the dirt in June.