03/02/2007 1:00AM

Velazquez learns how Tiganello runs best


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Todd Pletcher has had Tiganello for less than a year, but with the help of jockey John Velazquez he has finally figured out how to get the most out of the German-bred turf specialist. And the most may be good enough to get Tiganello home on top in Sunday's $125,000 Appleton Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Tiganello, a Group 1 performer in his native Germany earlier in his career, was sent to Pletcher last spring but has struggled to make an impact against stakes opposition in the U.S. He may have turned the corner, however, in his last start here on Jan. 31 when he rallied from last under Velazquez to defeat a good group of high-priced optional claiming opposition. The 101 Beyer Speed Figure he earned for the victory matched the number he received for winning a similar event at Saratoga in August.

"He's a quirky horse to ride, but John felt after his last race that if you just leave him alone and let him settle and lay back he'll put in his best effort," Pletcher explained. "I'm not sure about his races in Europe before he came here, but that last effort was his best since he came to us. I just hope he has some pace to run at in the Appleton."

There should be a realistic pace in the Grade 3 Appleton, especially with Giant Wrecker coming off the best race of his life, a game gate-to-wire head decision over Host in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap. Jambalaya, who finished a close third in the race, recently returned to win the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap.

Giant Wrecker, who is 2 for 3 at the one-mile distance of the Appleton, could get pressured on the front end by Better Than Bonds, Kiss the Kid, and Old Dodge.

An honest pace would also enhance the chances of 118-pound highweight Silver Tree as well as Steel Light, who has been idle since winning Woodbine's Grade 2 Nearctic Handicap in October 2005.

Silver Tree has run just once since finishing sixth behind English Channel in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. That effort was a fourth-place finish as the 1-5 favorite in Ellis Park's Tri State Handicap in early September. Now 7, Silver Tree has won 3 of 5 starts over the local course and also finished second behind Eclipse Award winner Miesque's Approval in the Sunshine Millions Turf here last winter.

Steel Light has won at a mile but appears better suited to shorter distances.

"He suffered a tendon injury after the race in Canada," said trainer Christophe Clement. "He's training well but I'd be more confident if this race was at six or seven furlongs."