08/03/2003 11:00PM

Stroll settles down to win

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There was simple symmetry Monday at Saratoga.

Jerry Bailey put the appropriate bookend on Hall of Fame day. After presenting jockey Mike Smith, the 2003 inductee, in the morning at the induction ceremonies, Bailey rode Stroll to victory in the $150,000 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Handicap, after which Smith presented the stakes trophy to Bailey and another Hall of Famer, trainer Bill Mott.

"It was a real special day today," Bailey said. "Mike and I are real good friends, and today was just real special."

Stroll, like his half-brother Patrol, is prone to being nervous. But unlike Patrol, who failed as the favorite in last year's running of this Grade 2 grass race, Stroll calmly settled off a moderate pace, then shot clear when asked at the top of the stretch.

Stroll disposed of pacesetter Sharp Impact after seven furlongs, was up by 4 1/2 lengths at midstretch, and coasted home four lengths better than Urban King, who rallied from ninth for second. Saint Stephen was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

As the 5-2 favorite, Stroll paid $7.30 to win. He was timed in 1:49.34 for 1 1/8 miles on a turf course rated yielding. It was humid Monday, but it did not rain until after the feature had been run.

The victory was the second straight and fourth overall in nine starts for Stroll, a 3-year-old colt by Pulpit who was bred and is owned by the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm. Both Seth Hancock, and his sister, Dell, were in the winner's circle. The victory was worth $90,000. Stroll won the Lamplighter Handicap at Monmouth on July 5 in his previous start.

"He still stays a little revved up," Mott said. "That's his nature. In the paddock, he's always on his toes, always anxious. He's finally gotten the message that when he leaves the gate, not to do it all going into the first turn and down the backside.

"This horse is a little bit like his half-brother Patrol. They both want to show a lot of speed, but it looks like this one is getting it down a lot quicker than his brother. I think this was incredibly impressive, knowing the horses that were in there. He was leveled off and going away from them in the stretch."