10/19/2006 11:00PM

Pickapocket tough if trouble free


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Frank Alexander has one wish for Pickapocket in the $75,000 Pilgrim Stakes: a clean trip.

The colt with the knack for finding trouble faces 11 rivals Sunday in the featured race on closing day at Belmont Park, which also includes the $75,000 Miss Grillo Stakes. The New York Racing Association circuit shifts to Aqueduct on Wednesday.

Pickapocket makes his fifth start in the Pilgrim, which is for 2-year-olds on the turf going 1 1/8 miles. Pickapocket has run exclusively on grass, making his first three starts at Saratoga.

"He was a little bit backward as we trained him along," Alexander said. "One day at Saratoga, we worked him on the grass and he worked really, really good."

Pickapocket ran evenly in his debut on July 30, finishing fifth. "He got in a little trouble inside and he was a little bit timid." Alexander said.

The colt won next time out, then encountered traffic in the With Anticipation Stakes on Sept. 1. He wound up steadying in tight quarters in the stretch when jockey Cornelio Velasquez tired to send him through a narrow opening.

Pickapocket bounced back to win the World Appeal Stakes at the Meadowlands in another adventurous trip. He got carried very wide at the quarter pole before digging in to get up by a length.

"They tried to get him beat, but they couldn't," Alexander said. "He was making a move and they carried him out to the middle of the racetrack. It looked like he would be a bad fourth, but he was very determined and kicked in again."

If not for the insurmountable trouble in the With Anticipation Stakes, Pickapocket might be carrying a three-race win streak into the Pilgrim.

Eibar Coa will ride for the first time.

Daytona, runner-up in the World Appeal and the Continental Mile at Monmouth Park in his last two starts, will be trying to give trainer Todd Pletcher his first Pilgrim victory.

Owner-trainer Charles Frock brings up C R's Deputy from Maryland. The colt is unbeaten in two starts, winning his maiden on the dirt at Charles Town before shifting to the turf and winning a first-level allowance race at Laurel.

Completing the field are Fernando Po, Giant Chieftan, Leading On, March to Victory, Strike a Deal, Angelouie, T Harry, Regal Officer, and You're the Mon.

First-timer Black Astor is on the also-eligible list.

Recent editions of the Pilgrim have been won by some high-profile horses, including Breeders Cup Classic winner Volponi (2000) and Miesque's Approval (2001).