08/11/2004 11:00PM

Vanderbilt no stroll in the park

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The defection of Ghostzapper from Saturday's $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap certainly makes things easier for Speightstown, but the Grade 2 sprint is no cakewalk.

Speightstown, whose three stakes wins this year make him a strong favorite in the Vanderbilit, will have to deal with early pace pressure from Mike's Classic and late challenges from Clock Stopper and Gators N Bears, who are in career-best form.

Those four runners plus My Cousin Matt and Gold Dollar make up the six-horse field for the Vanderbilt, which kicks off the NTRA National Pick 4 with a guaranteed pool of $400,000. The rest of the wager comprises the Beverly D., Sword Dancer, and Arlington Million. All four races will be shown live on ABC from 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern.

, a 6-year-old son of Gone West, has won five of six starts since returning off a 22-month layoff last spring. He has won all three of his starts this year, including an ultra-impressive effort in the Grade 2 True North Breeders' Cup Handicap in which he ran six furlongs in 1:08.04. That victory came five weeks after he dominated the Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day.

"To me, the True North was his most impressive race even though he was completely dominant at Churchill and Gulfstream," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "You don't see horses make multiple moves in sprint races very often."

Pletcher considered sending Speightstown to Hollywood Park for the Grade 1 Triple Bend in July, but did not believe the horse was doing well enough to warrant the cross-country trip. Pletcher said Speightstown has done better in the last month.

Speightstown, the 120-pound highweight, will break from post 2 under John Velazquez.

is coming off victories in the Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap and the James B. Moseley Handicap at Suffolk.

"If you like what you saw in the Moseley, you'll love what you'll see in Saratoga," said his trainer, Leo Nechamkin.

was beaten a nose in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder in his last start. Pat Day rides for trainer Dallas Stewart, who is enjoying a solid meet.