07/31/2007 11:00PM

Cable Boy faces big test at home track


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Cable Boy, a rapidly developing undefeated colt, will face a stiff challenge Sunday when he faces some of the leaders of the 3-year-old division in the Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Scrambling to make up for time lost due to extraordinary circumstances, Cable Boy did not debut until May 13. In a span of three races, all at Monmouth, he has demonstrated talent and speed, breaking the track record for a mile and 70 yards in his second race.

With that scant foundation, Cable Boy faces an intimidating Haskell lineup topped by Preakness winner Curlin. Other expected starters include Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun, Dwyer winner Any Given Saturday, the speedy Xchanger, Imawildandcrazyguy, and Reata's Shadow.

Some have argued that Cable Boy, sporting only one overnight stakes on the resume, is being thrown to the wolves.

Trainer John Forbes understands the skepticism.

"We have no delusions," Forbes said. "We know how tough the field is.

"If you look at the Beyer Speed Figures, you know how much faster they are than what he's run. At first glance, you throw him out of the race and say he's not going to be first, second, or third."

Cable Boy earned his best Beyer last time out, a 97 for his win in the Coronado's Quest Stakes on June 24. In comparison, 97 is the lowest Beyer for Curlin in any of his six races. He topped out at 111 in his Preakness victory.

On the positive side, Cable Boy has not been pushed in any of his races, posting an improving Beyer every time out.

"We don't know how fast he is," Forbes said. "You have to assume he's faster than what he's run because he hasn't been challenged. We know we haven't seen the best of Cable Boy. It would have to be a big leap, but it is not something you could rule out. We're not running just to go to the parties."

Cable Boy, a son of the A.P. Indy stallion Jump Start, was a $23,000 yearling purchase at the 2005 Keeneland September sale. He is part of his sire's first crop.

"We all looked at him and thought he's going to be a pretty good-looking horse when he grows up," Forbes said. "We had seen a lot of Jump Starts and we liked what we saw. That's one of the reasons we put a circle around him."

Forbes, 60, has been training at Monmouth for 30 years and has won five training titles. This will be the second time Forbes and longtime assistant Pat McBurney bring an unbeaten colt to the Haskell who did not race at 2.

Tale of the Cat had only two starts before battling for the lead and running fourth behind Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, Anet, and Free House in the 1997 edition.

Tale of the Cat went on to win the seven-furlong King's Bishop at Saratoga in his next start, then was second to Awesome Again in the Grade 1 Whitney as a 4-year-old.

"For Tale of the Cat, a mile and an eighth might be a little beyond his reach," Forbes said. "Tale of the Cat was faster than any horse I was around, but Cable Boy is looking for more ground.

"Tale of the Cat, like most of the Storm Cat line, was fiercely competitive in the way he approached everything. Cable Boy is super competitive and he's got a good mind."

Cable Boy was ready to debut last October when a herpesvirus outbreak hit the Monmouth backstretch. Cable Boy went from racing prospect to prisoner, confined to the barn for 70 days of hand-walking.

Half of the 25 horses in Forbes's care came down with a fever. All eventually recovered.

Cable Boy didn't get sick, although all of his conditioning vanished during the quarantine.

The stable was finally released in January, with Forbes fortunate to find a winter home at Philadelphia Park.

"They were unbelievably gracious to give us stall space knowing full well we had horses that hadn't done anything for two months and probably couldn't contribute much to their meet," Forbes said. "If we hadn't gotten in there, I don't know when Cable Boy would have been able to run."

Slowly and steadily, Cable Boy started over again, beginning the process leading to his debut at Monmouth in May.

Cable Boy had his final Haskell tuneup Wednesday morning, working four furlongs on a very warm morning in 48 seconds with regular jockey Jose Velez Jr. aboard.

"He went real good," Velez said. "I couldn't ask for any better. I had a lot of horse under me. People think he's a nice horse who hasn't beaten anybody. I think he'll run a real good race."