06/03/2004 12:00AM

True North: Speightstown shortens up


A brilliant seven-furlong horse is not necessarily a brilliant six-furlong horse. And while trainer Todd Pletcher knows he has a brilliant seven-furlong specialist in the talented Speightstown, he's eager to find out whether the horse can pay dividends at six furlongs, where the rewards are potentially far greater.

Pletcher gets his chance in the Grade 2 True North Handicap. Speightstown will be the favorite and the 119-pound highweight in the $200,000 race, which could serve as the first stop in a campaign for the six-furlong Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park in Texas.

will face nine others in the True North, including the California shipper Pohave and the streaking Canadian Frontier. Speightstown has won both of his starts this year, including a very fast victory in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap in his last start on May 1. But Speightstown, in four races, has run exclusively at seven furlongs since returning in 2003 after a 20-month layoff to heal a fractured right shoulder.

"His two races at seven-eighths have been very good this year, so ideally you'd like seven furlongs again," Pletcher said on Thursday morning. "But we need to find out if this horse can run six furlongs, because we need to start getting ready for the Breeders' Cup Sprint if that's the case."

In Canadian Frontier, Speightstown will face a streaking, lightly-raced 5-year-old who has improved rapidly over the past four months. Canadian Frontier has won three of his last four starts, and his last race, the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont on May 8, was easily his best effort so far. Canadian Frontier, trained by Stanley Hough, ran the six furlongs in 1:08.97 for a 107 Beyer Figure.

is a question mark. He has consistently put up better Beyer Figures than anyone in the field, but the transition from the hard surfaces in Southern California to the deeper tracks in New York can pose problems.

Filling out the field are Buzzy's Gold, Cat Genius, First Blush, Gracious Humor, Key Deputy, Maybry's Boy, and Sing Me Back Home.