09/10/2003 11:00PM

Pretty Wild has stakes in his sight

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Pretty Wild came close to winning a couple of Grade 1's last year, and now the time looks right for him to get his first stakes win in Saturday's $150,000 Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park.

Pretty Wild, coming off a strong win in his comeback race last month at Saratoga, is one of nine 3-year-olds entered in the Grade 2 Jerome.

As a 2-year-old, Pretty Wild finished second in the Hopeful and Futurity. After a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Champagne last October, Pretty Wild was found to have a knee chip that required surgery.

In his return on Aug. 23, Pretty Wild won a first-level allowance race over 10 rivals by 4 3/4 lengths under a hand ride. He covered the seven furlongs in a snappy 1:21.50 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104. Pretty Wild's final time was .64 seconds faster than Valid Video's time in the Grade 1 King's Bishop four races later.

Stanley Hough, Pretty Wild's trainer, wasn't entirely surprised by the ease of the performance.

"He ran like he trained," Hough said. "I would have preferred a little more time in between this race, but we are running out of opportunities for 3-year-olds."

Jerry Bailey rides Pretty Wild, who drew the rail and carries 116 pounds.

During is the 118-pound highweight. Trained by Bob Baffert, During won the 1 1/8-mile Swaps at Hollywood Park in July and beat Ten Most Wanted, who returned to win the Travers. During lost his next two starts, finishing sixth in the Jim Dandy and fourth in the King's Bishop after chasing a sizzling pace.

Trainer John Terranova and his wife, Tonja, have been caring for During while he has been in New York. Tonja Terranova said the colt's temperament has improved since shipping to Saratoga early in August.

"He threw Pat Day in the post parade of the Jim Dandy," she said. "He might not have liked running on top of shipping. We've been schooling him in the paddock and he has been more relaxed at Belmont."

Jose Santos rides During, who likely will be involved early, from post 7.

Tafaseel, who is 2 for 2 at Belmont, might not have cared for the slop when he finished eighth in the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 1.

Region of Merit, the Tampa Bay Derby winner, has been freshened since finishing fourth in the Hill Prince on June 14.

Inamorato, an easy winner of an allowance at Saratoga, is unlikely to run if the track is wet.