10/17/2003 11:00PM

Well Fancied holds off Gander

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Well Fancied held off a late charge by Gander to win Saturday's $250,000 on New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park before a crowd of 10,214.

Well Fancied finished a half-length in front of Gander, who won the Empire Classic for New York-breds in 1999 and 2002. Mr. Determined, who was 68-1, finished third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Gander.

Completing the order of finish in the 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic were Spite the Devil, Compelling World, Traffic Chief, Acceptable Venture, Private Emblem, and Lord ofthe Thunder.

Under Edgar Prado, Well Fancied, the 7-5 favorite, set the pace down the backstretch, with Mr. Determined in close pursuit. Gander, who was ridden by John Velazquez, steadied on the turn and looked like he was dropping out of it. But Gander mounted another rally in the stretch and finished full of run on the outside of Well Fancied.

Well Fancied ($4.90) covered the distance in 1:49.49 over a fast track. He carried 124 pounds as the highweight.

Prado said: "He was pretty comfortable. He's a fast horse, but he does things easy. I was trying to save as much as I could for the stretch. I knew someone was coming, but I didn't know it was Gander. He still had enough to hold on."

Velazquez said Gander's post position, 3, didn't help.

"The post killed us," Velazquez said. "I had horses leaning on me; I had to take him back and get him out at the three-eighths pole."

The Empire Classic was Well Fancied's fourth consecutive win. Over the summer, he won the Evan Shipman and General D. MacArthur at Belmont Park.

Richard Dutrow Jr., who trains Well Fancied for Sanford Goldfarb, Stewart Hoffman, and Jonathan Flesig, said he will point the 5-year-old son of Prosper Fager to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29.

"The one mile should be very good for him and it's in our backyard and he likes Aqueduct," said Dutrow, who is stabled at Aqueduct. "We are very happy with this horse right now."