07/29/2002 11:00PM

A softer spot for Admirality Arch

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - As impressive as Admirality Arch was winning his career debut at Belmont, trainer Todd Pletcher easily could have been tempted to run the promising 2-year-old back in the Sanford Stakes on the second day of the Saratoga meet.

Instead, Pletcher decided to take a more conservative route, opting to run Admirality Arch in an entry-level allowance race that is the co-feature on Thursday's card at Saratoga, along with a preliminary allowance race on the Mellon turf course for older fillies and mares.

Admirality Arch will face only four rivals, vying for a $47,000 purse in his second career start. Admirality Arch rallied from just off the pace for a 1 1/4-length victory in his debut, covering five furlongs in 57.20 seconds, and earning an 88 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He got jostled a little at the start, finished gamely, and galloped out really well," Pletcher said. "He's a very big and what I'd call a still-kind- of-figuring-it-out type of horse. And based on his pedigree he should appreciate stretching out."

Thursday's race is at 5 1/2 furlongs.

"I could have run him in the Sanford, but elected to skip that race and take the next logical step which is a first-level allowance," said Pletcher, who trains Admirality Arch for Michael Tabor. "In the Sanford he would have been meeting a full field of horses who were a lot more seasoned. Now he'll catch a small field but tougher competition than in his first start, and it should be a good learning experience. Hopefully, it will teach the horse something and will be a race he can move forward from."

Pletcher ruled out the possibility of Admirality Arch running back in the Saratoga Special on Aug. 14 but said the Hopeful on Aug. 31 is a possibility. John Velazquez again has the call.

Desert Warrior and South Florida invader Awesome of Course may have the best chance of upsetting Admirality Arch. Both colts are coming out of stakes races, Awesome of Course having finished fourth after setting the pace in Calder's Criterium Stakes and Desert Warrior a distant third after chasing the pace in the Grade 3 Tremont. Gallant Soldier and Aventurous Sword round out the starting lineup.

"The favorite will be tough, but my horse has the edge on experience and education which is a plus in our favor," said Tim Ritvo, who trains Awesome of Course. "We drew the rail, which probably will dictate our strategy and force us to go on early and make the others try to catch us."

* Trainer Christophe Clement's Group 3-placed Born Something and his arch-rival, Bill Mott's lightly raced Multitudinous, are the ones to beat in the eighth race, which drew a full field of ten to compete for a $48,000 purse.

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