07/14/2007 12:00AM

Pavarotti fights back to win Round Table


It's not that Pavarotti was striking sour notes early in his career, but when a horse costs $2.5 million as a yearling, there are expectations attached. And Saturday at Arlington, Pavarotti started living up to them.

Passed in midstretch by Time Squared, Pavarotti battled back gamely - with vigorous help from leading rider Rene Douglas - and won the $100,000 Round Table by a head. Dominican, the 3-5 favorite, steadied slightly at the start, but had no real excuse for a lackluster third-place finish. He finished just less than eight lengths behind Time Squared.

Pavarotti, owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, began his career this past winter in California. His connections made no effort to hide the fact that Pavarotti was a true route horse, debuting him in a two-turn Santa Anita maiden race. Pavarotti finished second in his first two starts before breaking through with a one-mile maiden win, and he appeared to struggle over sloppy going May 4 in a Churchill allowance race. Pavarotti cleared his first allowance condition May 28 at Churchill, and he built on that victory Saturday.

Douglas didn't have to ask Pavarotti to make the front, and he held an edge on Mandurah through a quarter-mile in 24.59 seconds, a half in 48.05, and three-quarters in 1:11.76. Mandurah had nothing Saturday, and Rafael Bejarano was scrubbing on Dominican - to no real effect - at the three-eighths pole. But it was Julien Leparoux and Time Squared, who stalked the pace along the fence, that emerged as the stretch threat. Time Squared stuck his nose in front at about the eighth pole, but Pavarotti responded, retaking the lead in the final yards.

Pavarotti paid $12 to win, and was timed in 1:49.75 for 1 1/8 miles.