06/20/2007 11:00PM

Vaunt in fine spot to go longer


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Bill Mott was in a merry mood Thursday. An obvious question concerning Vaunt, who makes his first start for the Mott stable on Saturday in the Arlington Classic, is whether a horse who has raced at sprint distances in eight of his 10 career starts can see out the 1 1/16 miles of the Arlington Classic.

"He can - if you give him enough time," Mott said.

It's true. Any horse can race successfully at any distance, given soft enough competition. And since Vaunt has ultra-hot Robbie Albarado coming in to ride, and has made five straight stakes starts - three of them graded - since being imported from England last year, a plurality of bettors probably will view his seven Saturday foes as soft enough.

Vaunt was privately purchased since his most recent race, a narrow defeat in the six-furlong Harry Henson at Hollywood, and has been breezing regularly with Mott's Keeneland string.

"All I can tell you is he's doing okay, and we've got to give him a chance if we're going to run in any of these bigger races," Mott said. "He's got to get that little extra distance."

The issue with Pleasant Strike is different. No doubt, Pleasant Strike is suited to route racing, but trainer Todd Pletcher wonders when Pleasant Strike will transform his raw talent into a finished product.

"We've always thought the horse was a little better than he's been in the afternoon," Pletcher said. "I think he's maybe on the verge of a breakthrough one of these times."

Pleasant Strike won a Gulfstream turf maiden race by eight lengths this fall, then lost two straight grass races before overcoming a wide trip to win a Polytrack allowance race here last out.

Tom Archdeacon won the Awad, an overnight turf stakes on May 28, and looks talented enough to contend in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 race.

"I don't want him to have to make two runs this time," said trainer Austin Smith. "He could do that and win the Awad, but not against these horses."

Pirate Saint was getting to Tom Archdeacon late in the Awad, and trainer Jim DiVito said his horse is "getting better and better every race."

Steve Asmussen-trained Beta Capo was third over soft turf in a $100,000 Lone Star stakes last month. Starbase, whose lone prior grass start was a dud, exits a trio of Grade 2 stakes.

o Round Heels and Chic Dancer, the respective one-two finishers in a May 18 turf allowance race here, top the $45,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes on the Saturday undercard.