02/26/2005 1:00AM

Slow fractions make G P Fleet's task easier

Louis Hodges Jr.
Jose Martinez Jr. guides G P Fleet to victory in the Fair Grounds BC.

G P Fleet won the $125,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap on Saturday under a heady ride from Jose Martinez Jr., who took advantage of a paceless race.

In a race that looked like a European turf marathon, all nine contestants left the gate in a dawdling chorus line, with none of the jockeys going for the early advantage. Donnie Meche finally went on with Warleigh, while Martinez was content to sit just inside of him going down the stretch for the first time in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

"With the slow pace and the speed holding on, I think Jose made a good decision to lay close and go," said trainer Steve Flint. "This horse is very versatile on the front end or from off the pace."

After going a quarter-mile in 26.95 seconds, Martinez found himself on the lead simply by cutting the corner going into the clubhouse turn. Meche had a stranglehold on Warleigh, who was several paths off the rail and losing ground at each left turn.

After a half-mile in 52.53 and a processional six furlongs in 1:17.01, G P Fleet ($11) kept his advantage over Warleigh and Rapid Proof while the others started to scramble behind them.

Turning for home, Martinez asked G P Fleet for run and he responded with a stout rally to finish 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Honor in War, who just wore down Rapid Proof for the place by a neck.