11/11/2006 1:00AM

Sweetnorthernsaint glides


Much as in his first start following a five-month layoff, Sweetnorthernsaint didn't have to work very hard to overwhelm token opposition in Saturday's $51,233 Odessa Stakes at Delaware Park.

Facing just two opponents after four horses were scratched, Sweetnorthernsaint ($2.40) cruised to an 8 1/4-length victory over Master of Disaster, covering 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.04.

Sweetnorthernsaint, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby and runner-up to Bernardini in the Preakness, also defeated two foes in a seven-furlong allowance at Laurel Park three weeks earlier.

Jockey Ramon Dominguez was content to sit just off the pace set by Master of Disaster. Sweetnorthernsaint moved to a short lead coming out of the final turn, was still just a half-length on top at the eighth pole, then widened his margin while hand-ridden to the wire.

"When I let him get a breather just past the half-mile pole, he relaxed so well on me that I was not sure what I had," Dominguez said. "I started getting after him a just a little bit just by hand-riding him, and he just slightly picked it up. But, when he felt the whip, he just took off, and he galloped out real strong.

"The last time," Dominguez added, "being that it was his first race after a layoff, I thought he ran great and he did what I asked him that day. Today, the challenge was a little greater, and he had to push himself a little more, but still, he handled himself well."

With the victory, Sweetnorthernsaint has now won 5 of 10 starts and $629,920.