04/02/2002 1:00AM

Tugger to find opposition is softer


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Tugger likely will find the competition in Thursday's sixth race at Aqueduct softer than what she has been encountering.

Tugger, a stakes winner for trainer Todd Pletcher and Anstu Stables, is one of five older fillies and mares entered in the one-mile money allowance. The race, which carries a $54,000 purse, could yield a starter or two for the $150,000 Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup on April 20.

Tugger's chief rival is Border Fire, a winner of four her last six starts.

Tugger hasn't won a race since September when she captured the one-mile Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont Park. The Noble Damsel was originally scheduled for the turf, but was switched to the main track because of a soft course. Since the Noble Damsel, Tugger, a 5-year-old daughter of Twining, has had mixed results in five starts. Tugger's best race since her stakes win was her second-place finish behind Cat Cay in the Grade 2 Top Flight at Aqueduct last November.

Tugger's latest losses came in a pair of Gulfstream Park stakes, including a fourth in the Herecomesthebride on March 17. In the Shirley Jones in February, Tugger finished a leg-weary seventh after a wickedly fast pace duel with Raging Fever, the winner of last weekend's Distaff Breeders' Cup.

Tugger's chances of winning would increase if the track comes up wet.

John Velazquez, off to a fast start at the spring meet since returning from Florida, rides Tugger from post 3.

Border Fire cuts back to one mile after three good races around two turns on the inner track. Border Fire, a 5-year-old trained by Allen Iwinski, won a third-level allowance race in December and a $60,000 claimer in January. In her last start, Border Fire was bumped hard leaving the gate in an allowance race and finished third, beaten 3 1/2 lengths by the Affectionately winner, Zonk.

Border Fire also has won over Aqueduct's main track at one mile, which makes her playable here.

Edgar Prado rides Border Fire from post 2.

Delray Dew, claimed by Gary Contessa for $45,000 from her last start on Feb. 27, is coming off several two-turn races, in which she routinely controlled the pace. Delray Dew used those tactics the day she was claimed and won a mile and 70-yard race by 2 1/2 lengths over the inner track.

It's doubtful that Delray Dew, who worked sharply here last week, will be able to dictate the pace with Tugger and Border Fire in this field.

Double Trick and Salt It Again complete the field.

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