10/11/2007 12:00AM

Twilight Meteor should benefit from pace

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - Todd Pletcher had so many early-season 3-year-olds pop up on the Kentucky Derby radar screen, but he might have been just as loaded this year in the 3-year-old turf division. So deep was the grass group that many race fans may be unfamiliar with Twilight Meteor, but he looks like the horse to beat Saturday in the Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby.

Twilight Meteor, or any of the other 10 horses in the Hawthorne Derby, will need luck. An 11-horse field on a narrow turf course with tight turns is a tricky proposition, even if Hawthorne's long stretch gives riders some margin for error.

Tasked with working out a trip for Twilight Meteor is Chris DeCarlo, to whom Pletcher often has turned in Hawthorne stakes. Twilight Meteor breaks from post 9, but judging from the way he ran Sept. 1 at Delaware Park, the draw can work out fine.

After employing pressing or stalking tactics most of the time, Twilight Meteor settled in seventh position last out in the Kent Breeders' Cup, made steady progress through the final quarter-mile, and wound up losing by a nose to high-class Nobiz Like Shobiz.

"Since we've gotten him to settle a little more off the pace, his races have been improved," Pletcher said.

There should be plenty of pace off which to settle here Saturday. Perhaps four or five of these 3-year-olds will have designs on the early lead - good news for Twilight Meteor, bad news for the good local horse Voy Por Uno Mas. Voy Por Uno Mas was a clear winner of his most recent start, an overnight grass stakes at Arlington, and though trainer Moises Yanez believes Voy Por Uno Mas can fall into a pace-pressing trip, he still might wind up going fast.

Drawn in post 10, and perhaps susceptible to a wide trip, is Summer Doldrums, whose big win this year came in the $1 million Colonial Turf Cup. He was a close fourth last out in the Kent, and has subsequently turned in two bullet works at Aqueduct for trainer Rick Violette.

Another New Yorker, lightly raced Bold Hawk, has only maiden and first-level allowance wins to his credit, but looks like an improving horse for trainer Jimmy Toner.

A win by any of the others Saturday would qualify as an upset.

* There's also a supporting overnight stakes Saturday, the $45,000 Rustic Ruler at six furlongs on dirt. A competitive field of six was entered, but the Rustic Ruler could boil down to Star by Design and High Expectations.