04/02/2008 11:00PM

Two give Tagg edge in Pan Am


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Dave and Fracas, a pair of long-distance turf specialists, figure to give trainer Barclay Tagg the upper hand in Saturday's $150,000 Pan American Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The 1 1/2-mile Grade 3 Pan Am drew a field of eight that also includes top contenders Drilling for Oil, Presious Passion and Ascertain.

Dave will share high weight of 117 pounds with Presious Passion while getting a little class relief after finishing sixth behind Einstein in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf earlier in the meet. A 7-year-old son of Ends Well, Dave registered his most important victory by upsetting the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap over a yielding Aqueduct course in November.

Fracas will be making his second start since coming to the United States from Ireland at the end of his 2007 campaign. A son of the English-bred stallion In the Wings, Fracas rallied from last to finish fourth, beaten 3 1/2 lengths, in the 1 1/8-mile Mervin Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap on March 8 at Fair Grounds.

Fracas turned in some strong performances last year in his native Ireland, including a second-place finish under 136 pounds going 1 1/2 miles over yielding turf in the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes at Leopardstown.

"I think we're going into this race loaded for bear," said Robin Smullen, assistant to Tagg, who will be in New York on Saturday to saddle Tale of Ekati in the Wood. "The inside post killed Dave in his last start. He never puts out when he's on the inside, and he just couldn't get outside in that race."

Smullen thought Fracas turned in a strong effort despite finishing fourth in the Muniz.

"You really need to be into the race a lot earlier over the Fair Grounds turf than this one, especially going a mile and one-eighth," said Smullen. "In fact, we were surprised he dropped back so far, which is why we're putting a little set of blinkers on him Saturday, to help keep him focused.

"I promise he'll be closer to the pace this time."

Smullen is also hoping for a little help from Mother Nature as well.

"A few showers won't hurt us either," Smullen said.

Drilling for Oil may have the best chance of defeating the uncoupled Tagg team.

Drilling for Oil registered the most important victory of his career going 1 1/2 miles in the Grade 3 Louisville Handicap last fall at Churchill Downs. Before that, he finished third, a length behind Ascertain, traveling the same distance in Keeneland's Grade 3 Elkhorn.