04/03/2004 1:00AM

Pollard's Vision wins easily

Pollard's Vision, trained by Todd Pletcher, is headed to the Kentucky Derby after winning Saturday's Grade 2 Illinois Derby by 2 3/4 lengths.

STICKNEY, Ill. - He is rather small, with a pedigree more like a sprinter than a route horse. He does not even have a right eye. But Pollard's Vision is headed for the Kentucky Derby after winning the Grade 2, $500,000 on Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course.

And he did not even have to work especially hard to do so. With Suave taken out of the pace picture on the first turn, Pollard's Vision established a clear early lead, repelled a run from Song of the Sword coming into the stretch, and edged away late to post a 2 3/4-length win.

Song of the Sword held second, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Suave, who ran on late to finish a clear third in the 11-horse field. Pollard's Vision, owned by the Edgewood Farm of David Moore, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast main track in 1:50.80 and paid $5.40 to win.

Pollard's Vision did not display the awesome power that War Emblem did winning this race two years ago, but parallels exist. Both horses run best winging on the front end, and both developed early in the spring. A month after winning in Chicago, War Emblem led all the way and won the Kentucky Derby.

Pollard's Vision will have the same chance - unlikely as that seemed several months ago. Pollard's Vision ran six times as a 2-year-old, winning just once, and he was third in his lone stakes race, the $79,000 Huntington. Moreover, as a son of Carson City, Pollard's Vision is bred to excel at one-turn, 2-year-old races.

But it was not until trainer Todd Pletcher took Pollard's Vision to Florida this winter that the colt blossomed. He was seventh in a seven-furlong allowance race, then won easily at 1 1/16 miles, earning a start in the Louisiana Derby, where he tracked a killing pace and finished third to Wimbledon and Borrego.

Saturday, he took another step forward. Out of the gate quickly, Pollard's Vision and jockey Eibar Coa went for the lead, and they got it when Suave was caught between horses entering the turn and had to steady.

"That took us out of our plan," said Suave's trainer, Paul McGee.

And it left Pollard's Vision coasting on the lead. With a strong crosswind, he went a quarter-mile in 23.99 seconds and a half in 47.94, with Chrome Soldier, then Skipaslew chasing. But on the far turn, it was Song of the Sword who launched the serious challenge.

"At the three-eighths, it looked like the eventual winner was going pretty easy," said Richard Migliore, who rode Song of the Sword.

Song of the Sword closed in on Pollard's Vision, but never reached his flank, and was outrun in the stretch.

"This is a little horse with a big heart," said Ginny DePasquale, Pletcher's traveling assistant. "He digs in and tries 100 percent every time. As soon as he senses a horse coming to him, he digs in even harder."

* A race after the local derby, Wildcat Shoes won the Lost Code Stakes, giving Coa three winners on the card.