06/04/2004 11:00PM

True North: Speightstown impressive

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Before Saturday, trainer Todd Pletcher wondered if his Speightstown would be as effective at six furlongs as he has been at seven.

It took only 68 seconds for Pletcher to get his answer.

In a performance that was as visually impressive as it was fast, Speightstown dueled for the lead, fell back, and then came again to win the Grade 2 by 1 1/2 lengths on Saturday at Belmont Park in 1:08.04 for six furlongs. Cat Genius, the horse that Speightstown dueled with in the early stages of the race, finished second, followed by California shipper Pohave.

"The thing that impressed me most was that he broke so sharp and was in that 21 2/5 duel and then took back and went outside," Pletcher said. "It's hard to make multiple moves like that in a sprint."

Speightstown was ridden by John Velazquez. He paid $5.60 to win as the favorite, and topped a $34 exacta and $75.50 trifecta.

Cat Genius and Speightstown carved out the first quarter-mile in 21.58. Speightstown dropped back going into the turn, and then, after a half in 43.72, Speightstown took the lead for good.

Speightstown had raced four times since returning from a 20-month layoff in May 2003, winning three of them, including the Churchill Downs Handicap in his last start on May 1.

Speightstown will now be put on a path to the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park. His next start will be the Smile Handicap at Calder Race Course on July 10, Pletcher said.