11/01/2003 1:00AM

Presto! Pocus Hocus closes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A front-runner most of her career, Pocus Hocus demonstrated the ability to rate on Saturday and it led to the first stakes victory of her career in the Grade 3, $107,500 Turnback the Alarm Handicap at Aqueduct.

Under Jose Santos, Pocus Hocus sat off the pace-setting Miss Linda until the five-sixteenths pole, then spurted away from the field in the stretch to win the Turnback the Alarm by 5 1/4 lengths. Nonsuch Bay rallied for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Miss Linda.

She's Got the Beat, the 9-5 favorite who was poised to challenge Pocus Hocus in the stretch, took a bad step at the quarter pole and was pulled up by jockey John Velazquez. Celeste Kunz, the chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, said X-rays were to be done to determine if She's Got the Beat has either a sesamoid fracture or a suspensory ligament tear of her left foreleg.

It took Pocus Hocus eight attempts to win her maiden. Saturday's Turnback the Alarm was her eighth stakes try. Breaking from post 4 under Santos, Pocus Hocus stalked Miss Linda through fractions of 24.51 seconds and 49.11 and put her head in front after three-quarters run in 1:13.78. With no one to challenge in the stretch, Pocus Hocus cruised home an easy winner, covering nine furlongs in 1:50.67. She returned $26.20 as the fifth choice.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens and Santos felt the Turnback the Alarm was a good opportunity to try and get Pocus Hocus to rate, with Miss Linda, the other speed, breaking from the rail. Though Pocus Hocus was a bit rank entering the first turn, she soon settled nicely.

"At the three-eighths pole, when I asked her to run, she just took off full of run," Santos said."I said to myself, it's going to be very tough for a horse coming from behind to beat me."

Jerkens said Pocus Hocus, a 5-year-old daughter of Quiet American owned by Susan and John Moore, would probably race again next year. While Jerkens is sending a string of horses to south Florida this winter, Pocus Hocus will not be going. She will either start next in the $100,000 Ladies Handicap over Aqueduct's inner track on Dec. 20 or be freshened up for next year.