04/30/2003 11:00PM

Trebizond scores first stakes win in Hard Scuffle

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trebizond, who faced some of the nation's top jumpers in the last six months, reverted to the easier novice division in Thursday's $106,200 Hard Scuffle Steeplechase, scoring his first stakes win.

Ridden by Robert Massey for trainer Katherine Neilson, Trebizond rallied from the middle of the pack to rundown longtime pacesetter Naughty Prince in the run from the last jump to the finish.

The 7-year-old Trebizond was always well-placed through the Grade 1 Hard Scuffle, run over about 2 1-16 miles. He raced well behind the leaders for the first circuit, a few lengths behind pacesetter Major Hero.

The race changed complexion on the second circuit. At the sixth of nine fences, the jump closest to the finish line, Major Hero fell upon landing, hampering Preemptive Strike. The incident left Naughty Prince in front, with Trebizond and Fighting Star closer to the lead.

Naughty Prince continued to lead on the final run down the backstretch and the turn, but was only a length in front of Fighting Star in early stretch.

At the final fence, Naughty Prince held the lead, but Trebizond rallied from third in the final furlong to win by a half-length over Naughty Prince. He was timed in 3:45.97.

Fighting Star finished third, followed by Niello, Hotspur, Preemptive Strike and Pals Pride.

Trebizond races for William Lickle. An Irish-bred horse by Sadler's Wells, he has won 5 of 30 starts and $171,758. In the last year, Trebizond has appeared in two Grade 1 races against open company in Camden, S.C., finishing fourth in the Colonial Cup last November and fifth, and last, in the Carolina Cup on March 29. In his most recent start prior to the Hard Scuffle, he finished third in an allowance race over hurdles on April 19.