10/19/2001 11:00PM

Volponi flies to victory in Pegasus Handicap


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Volponi used a strong closing move to win the $250,000 Pegasus Handicap by 2 3/4 lengths under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan at The Meadowlands Friday night.

Volponi, a son of Cryptoclearance, sat off the pace, swept to the lead in the final furlong of the Grade 2 race, and then held off favorite Burning Roma to earn his second straight victory and his second career graded stakes victory. Trained by Hall of Famer Phil Johnson and owned by Amherst Stable and Spruce Pond Stable, Volponi was timed in 1:46.55 for the 1 1/8 miles.

The Pegasus win was Johnson's 18th stakes victory at The Meadowlands, the most of any trainer since the track opened in 1977.

Giant Gentleman set the pace over a track that had been favoring speed throughout the program, setting fractions of 45.28 seconds and 1:08.90 - the fastest six-furlong fraction in the history of the race. Burning Roma moved alongside Giant Gentleman at the quarter pole, but was quickly overtaken by the winner.

"I had a great trip and the pace set up good," said Bridgmohan. "He was running comfortably and he gave me the indication that he had a lot left. He just accelerated to the front. He kind of goofed around when he saw the lights, but he won with something left."

Volponi paid $10.20.

In other Friday night stakes:

* Jockey Phil Teator and trainer Lawrence Murray combined to win two of the five $100,000 undercard stakes. They won the Navajo Princess Stakes with 25-1 Cruise Along, and the Miss Liberty with 21-1 Media Access, who survived a 25-minute stewards' inquiry into a roughly contested stretch run.

* Trainer Juan Serey and owner John Rotella chose to leave top New York-bred Say Florida Sandy at Belmont for Sunday's Henry Hudson Stakes and scratched him from Friday's Skip Trial. But they won the Skip Trial anyway, with Run Kush Run, who was ridden by Jose Bermudez. A 3-year-old, Run Kush Run bested Oro de Mexico by 2 3/4 lengths and covered six furlongs in 1:09.11.

* Talk's Cheap challenged Rize for the lead then pulled away to a 3 3/4-length victory over Runspastum in the Broad Brush Stakes under Chuck C. Lopez.

* Beckon the King and jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. upset Strategic Mission and Jerry Bailey in the John Henry Stakes. Beckon the King, owned by Lawana and Robert Low and trained by Gary Contessa, won by a length.