08/16/2001 12:00AM

Shippers outnumbered but not outgunned in Grade 3 Sapling

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Seven of the nine 2-year-olds entered for Saturday's Grade 3 $150,000 Sapling have run at least once over the track, but it is the two invaders that have the best chance to win.

The Sapling, the premier race for 2-year-olds at the meet, has hosted such champions as Buckpasser, Foolish Pleasure, Alydar, and Gilded Time. The race brings in shippers every year to battle the local standouts. Although there is no clear-cut favorite this year, the shippers Truman's Raider and Juggernaut will be bet strongly.

Truman's Raider is trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Sapling eight times since 1987. Truman's Raider ran third in his career debut at Keeneland April 20. In his second start, on July 25 at Saratoga, Truman's Raider romped to a 7 3/4-length victory, covering 5 1/2 furlongs in a rapid 1:03.68. Truman's Raider, wearing blinkers for the first time, was on the lead from the start in that win and may be part of a hot pace Saturday.

Mark Guidry will ship down from Saratoga to ride Truman's Raider.

Juggernaut has gotten better with every start for trainer Larry Pilotti, working his way up from a runner-up finish in his debut in a $32,000 maiden claiming race, to a victory in a maiden special weight race, to a win in the $100,000 Criterium Stakes at Calder in his last start July 7.

Juggernaut showed a new dimension in winning the Criterium at 10-1.

Rather than running on the lead, as he had done in his previous two starts, Juggernaut raced in last for nearly half of the 5 1/2-furlong Criterium. He was in fourth, four lengths back of leader Pure Precision with one furlong remaining. But Juggernaut, a son of Is It True, came flying down the lane to win going away by two lengths under Abel Castellano Jr.

"We wanted to take him off the pace, but I didn't expect him to drop back as far as he did," said Pilotti, who trains Juggernaut for Siobahn Ellison and breeder-owner Bill Killeen. "But I have to give credit to the jockey because he did a great job. He knew how much horse he had, and when he moved to the outside Juggernaut just exploded and ran down Pure Precision."

Pilotti said that he doesn't expect Juggernaut to be as far back in the Sapling, but does expect him to come from off the pace.

Pure Precision came here to the barn of John Tammaro 3rd after his Criterium loss, and responded with a three-quarter-length score in the Sapling prep, the $50,000 Tyro Stakes. Pure Precision, who will be ridden by Eibar Coa for the first time Saturday, has the best chance of the locally stabled horses.

The three finishers behind Pure Precision in the Tyro - Doc Wild, Outstander, and Lil Badger - all return in the Sapling. John Mazza sends out two Jersey-breds: Wild Navigator and the undefeated Capture the Silver, who has a maiden and allowance victory over the track. Vinemeister, trained by Alan Seewald, completes the field.

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