09/13/2002 11:00PM

Startac finally gets it done

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Startac ended 13 months of frustration for his connections while extending Volponi's recent string of hard luck by rallying along the rail in the stretch to win Saturday's $200,000, Grade 2 by three-quarters of a length.

Volponi, who was beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap and two lengths in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational, held second after setting the pace for more than one mile in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. He finished two lengths ahead of Dr. Kashnikow.

It was the first victory for Startac since he won the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington on Aug. 18, 2001. Startac, owned by the Allen Paulson Living Trust, had lost seven straight races since then, including his last two for trainer Bill Mott.

Jose Santos, the rider of 4-5 favorite Volponi, wanted his horse to stalk Spruce Run. Spruce Run made the lead entering the first turn but began to bear out, and Santos decided to send Volponi to the front as the field entered the backstretch.

Volponi held a narrow advantage through fractions of 24.79 seconds, 48.35, and 1:11.58 while being chased by Spruce Run and El Gran Papa. Meanwhile, Bailey had Startac saving ground. With Santos keeping Volponi in the two path in the stretch, Bailey rallied Startac along the rail and took the lead inside the sixteenth pole.

Startac, a son of Theatrical, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.60 over firm turf and returned $6.50 as the second choice.

"I had a great trip," Bailey said. "I got him tucked in and saved the ground and stayed in. I had an option: If [Volponi] went over to the fence as he turned for home, I could have angled out just as easily."

Santos said he could not get Volponi to the rail because "he tried to get out a little bit. But, I was watching the rerun and I think that horse could have gone inside or outside and still beat me today."

The Belmont Breeders' Cup, known as the Saratoga Budweiser Breeders' Cup before 1994, was one of the few turf stakes Mott had not won. He was 0 for 5 in this race before Saturday.

Mott said he had no definite plans for Startac.