10/03/2006 12:00AM

Big test may have to wait

Bernardini works five furlongs under Simon Harris in 1:03.33 Tuesday in his final work for the Gold Cup.

Trainer Tom Albertrani doesn't care who shows up to run in Saturday's $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, just as long as Bernardini does.

"You don't ever want to get overconfident, and you got to respect every horse that's in the race," Albertrani said Tuesday morning. "They're there to win, too. As long as our horse shows up and he's training well, that's all we're really asking for. If he runs his race back to what he's been showing us, he's still going to be the horse to beat."

Coming off authoritative victories in the Preakness, Jim Dandy, and Travers, Bernardini was the horse to beat in the Jockey Club Gold Cup even before last Saturday's revelation that leading handicap horse Invasor would miss the race because of a temperature. Invasor's absence makes life that much easier for Bernardini in what will be his final race before the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

"There's two ways of looking at it," Albertrani said. "If we were to beat Invasor, I guess you'd put yourself in a position where you've beaten the best 3-year-olds and now the best older horse on the East Coast. But with him not in there, the race may not be as hard on [Bernardini] and you can keep your horse fresh for the Breeders' Cup."

The Gold Cup field remained in flux Tuesday, and that may continue until entries are taken Thursday. Dylan Thomas, the Irish Derby and Irish Champion winner on turf, and Andromeda's Hero are confirmed. Nick Zito, the trainer of Andromeda's Hero, said he is now thinking of running Brooklyn winner Wanderin Boy and training Sun King up to the Classic. Zito said Edgar Prado would ride Wanderin Boy should he run.

Zito's interest in running Wanderin Boy stems from the news that Spanish Chestnut, who was expected to run as a rabbit for Dylan Thomas, is now pointing to Saturday's Phoenix at Keeneland instead.

The subtraction of Spanish Chestnut and the likely addition of Wanderin Boy changes the complexion of the race somewhat. Spanish Chestnut was a speed horse who had little chance of getting the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Gold Cup. Wanderin Boy is a speed horse who has proven himself effective up to 1 1/8 miles.

"There may be a legitimate speed horse that can go a mile and a quarter, so you pay a little bit more attention to the pace," Albertrani said. "You stick a little closer to that type of a horse. But our horse, with his versatility, it shouldn't make much of a difference."

Bernardini completed preparations for the Gold Cup on Tuesday, working five furlongs in 1:03.33 over Belmont's main track. It wasn't one of his most aesthetic moves; exercise rider Simon Harris purposely dragged him several more paths off the rail than usual because Harris didn't like the track.

Once Harris straightened Bernardini out in upper stretch, Bernardini completed his final quarter of the move in 24.71 seconds. Harris said Belmont's main track was wet but tight on Monday, following weekend rains. During Tuesday's renovation break, two water trucks went over the main track, and Harris said the track was wet and loose. Also, several horses had worked before Bernardini, and Harris said he believed the inside part of the track was chewed up.

"[Monday], it was wet-fast, but it was tight," Harris said. "Today, it was wet, but you were going right through it, and I didn't like it at all, so I probably erred on the side of caution than what I normally would, because it was chewed up the way it was."

Following a solid workout last week in which Bernardini went five furlongs in 1:00.90 and galloped out a mile in 1:39, Albertrani said he wasn't looking for much on Tuesday.

"He's coming into this race as good as ever," said Albertrani. "Today's work was just routine."

Albertrani hopes the Gold Cup is equally as routine.