06/12/2002 11:00PM

Private Ryan needs no


The lone speed in an otherwise paceless field is among the best bets in racing. That fundamental tenet of handicapping bodes well for Private Ryan's chances in Saturday's $100,000 Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico.

Of the seven older horses entered in the Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile race, only Private Ryan and Bowman's Band show any affinity for racing on or near the lead. Since trainer Michael Matz is leaning toward running Bowman's Band in Saturday's Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park, Private Ryan could be all alone up front, allowing jockey Mark Johnston to dictate a leisurely pace.

The only question is whether Private Ryan is ready to fire after a three-month layoff. Since he was claimed for $20,000 by trainer Tim Tullock last August at Delaware Park, Private Ryan has been accustomed to racing at least once a month.

The 5-year-old Private Ryan, however, has certainly flourished under Tullock's care. From October through January, Private Ryan reeled off five straight wins, highlighted by a three-length victory at 1 1/8 miles in the Native Dancer at Laurel Park. He earned a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure in that race.

The chief threats to Private Ryan appear to be Grundlefoot and Lyracist.

Grundlefoot, whose record of 3-2-1 in seven starts at Pimlico indicates a fondness for the surface, should be fitter for this race after making his first start in five months in the Grade 3 Schaeffer Handicap on the Preakness undercard. A five-time winner last season, Grundlefoot's best race came in a nine-furlong stakes at Laurel in which he earned a 105 Beyer.

Lyracist defeated Private Ryan by nearly two lengths when they last met in the Campbell Handicap in February. He hasn't been able to duplicate the same closing kick in three subsequent starts, however, and will be making his first start since early May and only his second since late March.

Tactical Side, claimed for $30,000 by trainer John Robb, soared to a career-best 109 Beyer in April, but bounced off that effort when moved up to face stakes horses for the first time in the Schaeffer. Although his 92 Beyer was a major drop-off, Tactical Side still managed to finish third despite a wide trip and could be dangerous if he can duplicate his effort of two races ago.

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