08/22/2004 11:00PM

Purge is eager early, slow late

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Based on his fast win in the Jim Dandy, Purge will be among the favorites in Saturday's Travers Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The key to success for Purge is whether or not he will relax in the early stages of a race. It was something he did flawlessly winning the Grade 2 Jim Dandy here on Aug. 8.

It was not something Purge did so kindly Monday in his last workout prior to Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes.

Purge, under exercise rider Michelle Nihei, went fast early and a bit slow late during a five-furlong move timed in 1:01.45 over Saratoga's main track.

Purge threw his head a few times and was very eager in the early stages as he rattled off splits of 11.94 seconds, 23.82, and 35.89. He got his last quarter-mile in 25.56 seconds. Trainer Todd Pletcher wasn't too concerned.

"As we were going to the pole they kicked a pair out of the gate that landed in front of him, so he went off eagerly, which he normally does,'' Pletcher said. "Then he relaxed. We got what we were looking for out of it. I would say he worked pretty much within the way that he normally does work.''

Post positions for the Travers will be drawn on Wednesday morning. The seven expected runners, with riders, are: Birdstone (Edgar Prado), Eddington (Richard Migliore), Lion Heart (Joe Bravo), Purge (John Velazquez), Sir Shackleton (Rafael Bejarano), Suave (Pat Day), and The Cliff's Edge (Shane Sellers).

Purge will be among the favorites based on his dynamic victory in the Jim Dandy, in which he stalked Medallist for six furlongs before taking charge at the three-eighths pole to win by 4 1/2 lengths. His final time of 1:47.56 equaled the second-fastest Jim Dandy ever run.

In the spring, Purge ran a huge race winning the Peter Pan. He came back two weeks later and finished last in the Belmont Stakes. Pletcher blamed that on his poor behavior in the paddock more than coming back in two weeks. Pletcher, however, is somewhat concerned about having to run back in 20 days.

"You'd love to have more time,'' Pletcher said. "The good thing about it is pretty much everybody is in the same boat. . . . Historically, it seems like a lot of horses that have run well in the Jim Dandy have come back and run well in the Travers.''

Ten Travers winners have used the Jim Dandy as a prep. The last horse to win both races was Thunder Rumble in 1992.

Eddington, who finished third but was placed fourth in the Jim Dandy, worked four furlongs in 48.07 seconds Monday morning over the training track. Lion Heart, the Haskell winner, may blow out three or four furlongs Wednesday or Thursday.