12/27/2002 1:00AM

Saintly Look at the head of the class in Sugar Bowl


NEW ORLEANS - In a Nov. 30 allowance race at Churchill Downs, Saintly Look looked like a horse that had started to learn his lesson. In his first two starts, Saintly Look ran like many unseasoned 2-year-olds, leaving the gate in high gear and going as fast as he could for as far as he could, but on Nov. 30 the colt raced with greater understanding. Settling off a fast early pace, Saintly Look did his running on the turn and in the stretch, missing victory by a neck in a solid 10-horse field.

Those tactics would serve Saintly Look well Sunday, when he faces six opponents in the $75,000 Sugar Bowl, a six-furlong stakes for 2-year-olds. The likely favorite, Saintly Look will enhance his chances if he avoids an early duel with two quick horses to his inside, Down Play and Mick. Down Play has broken first or second in six of his seven starts and can run a quarter-mile in 21 seconds and change. Down Play has nothing on Mick, who has made his last three starts at Remington Park, winning the $30,000 Clevor Trevor there on Nov. 10. Mick made a clear lead in the Clever Trevor by running an opening quarter-mile in 20.80 seconds, a split fast for even graded stakes-caliber sprinters.

While Mick and Down Play will be looking for the wire at the furlong pole, a repeat of Saintly Look's last start will send him rolling by them in mid-stretch.

"He really worked well here the last time," said Dallas Stewart, who trains Saintly Look. "He did everything the right way."

Saintly Look ran sixth in his career debut, but won second out at Churchill by more than four lengths, and has raised optimism as he awaits his 3-year-old campaign.

"We'll take it one step at a time, but hopefully he'd be able to stretch out," Stewart said. "That's always a good plan this time of year."

Jockey Shane Sellers has the assignment of timing Saintly Look's move in the Sugar Bowl. If Saintly Look races too keenly, he could be vulnerable to a rally in deep stretch, either from Demopolis or Broke Again. Saintly Look finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Demopolis in the Churchill allowance, but Demopolis has a one-run sprinting style that's effective in races with a fast pace.

Broke Again finished second at odds of 4-5 in a Dec. 6 allowance race here, but closed steadily in the final furlong while running a fast six-furlong time.