04/12/2007 12:00AM

Vitruvius a 3-year-old who bears watching


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It is unlikely he will have an impact on this year's Triple Crown, but a 3-year-old worth keeping an eye on is Vitruvius, who won a first-level allowance race by 3 3/4 lengths here on Wednesday.

After winning his debut in gate-to-wire fashion at Gulfstream, Vitruvius, a half-brother to graded stakes winner Corinthian by E Dubai, demonstrated the ability to come from off the pace in his allowance win. After breaking slowly under Kent Desormeaux, Vitruvius raced in the second flight behind three speed horses, made a dramatic move toward the leaders leaving the half-mile pole, and struck the front turning for home.

Though he drifted out some in deep stretch, Vitruvius covered the mile in 1:35.36 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

"He rated nice," said Jimmy Jerkens, trainer of Vitruvius. "[Desormeaux] said he almost rated too good. He said he got [off] the bridle and he got a little concerned. That's why he gunned him when he did; he wanted to get him into the race. He had only one start and he was in front all the way. It's a whole different thing being behind horses. He did good. He's got nice acceleration, that's for sure."

Jerkens said he would prefer to take his time with Vitruvius and not rush him back into something like the Grade 3 Withers, a one-turn mile here on April 28. Some options for his next start may include the Barbaro Stakes (formerly the Sir Barton) at Pimlico on May 19, the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 20, or a second-level allowance race.

"There isn't much to him," Jerkens said.

Dr. Steve Carr, the racing manager for Centennial Farms, the owner of Vitruvius, said he would like to point to a summer campaign that includes the Dwyer at Belmont and the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, both in July.

Desire to Excel fitter now

Desire to Excel returns to where it all began when she runs in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Comely Stakes here.

It was 360 days ago when Desire to Excel won her career debut by a neck in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race over the main track. She was the 6-5 favorite that day. She followed that win with a 24-1 upset victory in the Astoria Stakes at Belmont, beating the highly regarded Octave.

Desire to Excel injured a knee when stumbling at the start of the Grade 3 Schuylerville - a race in which she managed to get second - and underwent minor surgery. She was off the remainder of the year.

Desire to Excel made her 3-year-old debut on March 17 in the Florida Oaks, finishing fifth in her first start around two turns.

"I know she was a short horse running up at Tampa," said Kelly Breen, the trainer of Desire to Excel. "I think the Comely is an excellent race for us. I think a one-turn mile is going to hit her in the head."

What next for Magna Graduate?

With the Pimlico Special scrapped for this year, trainer Todd Pletcher is in a quandary when it comes to where next to run Excelsior Breeders' Cup winner Magna Graduate.

Pletcher said the Metropolitan Handicap on May 28 is a possibility, though a one-turn mile may not be the best conditions for Magna Graduate. Also, Pletcher is planning to run Oaklawn Handicap winner Lawyer Ron in the Met Mile.

"Everything around is kind of $100,000," Pletcher said. "I'm not going to rule out the Met, though he's probably a little better at a mile and an eighth. We might wait for the Stephen Foster."

The Stephen Foster is on June 16 at Churchill Downs.