07/17/2006 11:00PM

Auguri: Catch me if you can


ELMONT, N.Y. - The premise for Thursday's third race at Belmont Park is simple: Auguri will get the early lead in the $58,000 optional claiming route, and his four rivals have 10 furlongs to catch him.

This strategy has worked once for in eight starts since coming to the United States from his native Argentina, when he raced for a claiming price of $200,000 in a one-turn mile at Gulfstream Park and led past every pole. Things have not gone as well for Auguri in three subsequent starts, but he has been in some tough situations: He was off slowly from the rail and rushed up in the Artax Handicap, and twice caught wet tracks at Belmont in June, the first against Rathor, who was winning his third straight, and the most recent giving futile chase to Pimlico Special runner-up Wanderin Boy.

, an even fifth in the Pimlico Special, may have the best chance to reel in the leader. Like Auguri, the Chilean-bred We Can Seek is a South American import, and like Auguri he has won 1 of 8 starts since beginning his U.S. career last fall - that win coming at 10 furlongs after laying close to molasses-like fractions at Aqueduct three starts back.

Eibar Coa, who is looking for his third straight meet title in New York this year, is back aboard We Can Seek, who comes off a fourth-place finish in the Point Given Stakes behind Malibu Moonshine. Malibu Moonshine won a classified allowance at Mountaineer Race Track last weekend.

The field also includes Peruvian import , the lone runner entered for the $100,000 claiming price; Dr. Rockett, who makes his 66th career start; and the enigmatic New York-bred Win With Beck, who like We Can Seek posted his lone win this year in a slow-paced 10-furlong optional claimer at Aqueduct.

The seventh race, a $50,000 optional claimer with third-level allowance conditions, is scheduled for one mile on the Widener turf. Eight older males were entered for turf, along with two main-track-only runners.

Night Chapter, who stumbled badly at the break and chased Weigelia's six-furlong course record of 1:07.04 in his first start back from a 371-day layoff, stretches back to the distance of his listed stakes win in France, and may be the one to beat for Bobby Frankel.

Other contenders include the returning Tinseltown, a restricted stakes winner on this course last year, and Saint Daimon, who has been chasing the best 3-year-old dirt sprinters in the East.