03/22/2004 12:00AM

Cajun Beat gets a look at desert lights


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Cajun Beat worked alone under the lights at Nad Al Sheba on Monday night, preparing for Saturday's $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint here in the Middle East.

Whether he is alone at the finish of the six-furlong race depends largely on how he fares against four rival American shippers.

On the surface, Cajun Beat's three-furlong workout in 38.75 seconds was nothing to rave about, but little was asked of the 4-year-old gelding. After a quick tour of the paddock, situated in front of the stands, he jogged up the stretch, turned around and jogged briefly before picking up the pace and breezing three furlongs.

"We just wanted to get him acclimated to the chute and the lights," trainer Stephen Margolis said.

Cajun Beat has already conquered the best sprinters in the United States, having won the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita last October by a convincing 2 1/4 lengths.

Since that race, owners John and Joe Iracane and Padua Stable have had the Golden Shaheen Sprint as a long-term goal.

Cajun Beat will face Alke and Tour of the Cat from Florida, and Our New Recruit and Tsigane from California. State City, the defending champion, returns, but is winless in four starts since the 2003 race. All four of those starts came in New York for Godolphin Racing, the most recent of which was a fifth in the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 25.

Cajun Beat, who will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, has run twice at Gulfstream Park since his 22-1 upset in the BC Sprint. Cajun Beat won the Mr. Prospector Handicap on Jan. 3, but was a well-beaten second to Alke in the Deputy Minster Handicap on Feb. 7, giving that rival 11 pounds.

"The biggest anxiety is the unknown," Joe Iracane said. "We felt this was a good opportunity, and we're getting a look at the world.

"I think Alke is an able foe. We're concerned about him, but on the other hand we have a great horse. We think he shows up every time."

Tour of the Cat, winless in three starts since the Grade 3 Spend a Buck Handicap at Calder last October, worked three furlongs in 34.04 seconds under urging by local jockey Stanley Chin.

Trainer Myra Mora said Tour of the Cat can be lazy and needed a few reminders with a whip during the workout.

"He's not much of a work horse," she said. "He's a little lazy unless he's with a horse. We needed to pick it up."

Mora said she was unsure whether Chin, who previously rode in Hong Kong, or Jon Court would have the mount. Court is booked on Saturday to ride two horses trained by Doug O'Neill: Fleetstreet Dancer in the $6 million World Cup and Excessivepleasure in the $1 million Godolphin Mile.

Tsigane an early bird

Not all American-based trainers shared Margolis's interest in getting a workout under the lights.

Tsigane, the winner of the Daytona Handicap on the hillside turf course last month at Santa Anita, worked five furlongs early Monday morning in "59 and change," according to trainer Julio Canani.

For Canani, the custom of a morning workout was preferred over an evening work, especially for a trainer who arrived from California at 2 a.m. Monday and stayed up all night.

"I don't want to find out he doesn't like the lights," Canani said. "Then, I'll be miserable for the next five days."

The Golden Shaheen will be Tsigane's first start on dirt, a factor that does not overly concern Canani.

Canani has worked Tsigane, a French import, on dirt frequently at Santa Anita, but has run him only twice, both races on the hillside turf course.

"He galloped out very strongly," Canani said of the Monday work. "He's trained super on it, like he did in America. It's not that deep; he glides over it."

The chance at a lucrative prize helped convince Canani and Tsigane's owner, Prestonwood Farm, to gamble on an attempt at the Golden Shaheen.

"If we don't try, we don't know," he said. "I don't know how good he'll run, but we have to give it a chance."

Canani has tried the turf-to-dirt experiment in the past in Dubai. Last year, the Canani-trained Cayoke finished fourth in the Godolphin Mile, beaten 1 3/4 lengths.

Drysdale pair get in their works

Trainer Neil Drysdale worked his two World Cup program hopefuls under the lights on Monday.

Sarafan, who will start in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free over about 1 1/8 miles on turf, worked five furlongs on turf in company with a locally based horse in 1:00.41. Drysdale timed him in 59.80 seconds.

From the Sky, an Argentine import who has yet to race in the United States, worked six furlongs in 1:15.22. He will start in the $2 million UAE Derby, which is open to 3-year-olds from the Northern Hemisphere and 4-year-olds from the Southern Hemisphere.

Sarafan trotted once around the turf course before starting the workout on the backstretch. He broke off a length behind his workmate, drew even with about three furlongs remaining, and pulled away to lead by three lengths before being geared down in the final sixteenth.

"He needed a good work, but normally we don't do fast works with him," said Drysdale.

Sarafan has started once this year, finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita on March 6. A winner of 9 of 37 starts and more than $2.4 million, Sarafan's most recent stakes win came in the restricted Harry Brubaker Handicap at Del Mar last August.

The Duty Free field is expected to have 12 starters. Bright Sky, second in the Group 3 Prix Exbury on March 6 in France, is favored with English bookmakers.

Sarafan and From the Sky are owned by Gary Tanaka of London.

From the Sky, a Group 1 winner in Argentina in December in his last start, is a 4-year-old, and will face four other Southern Hemisphere horses in the Derby, run over about 1 1/8 miles. The race was run over 1 1/8 miles in 2000 and 2001 but over 1 1/4 miles in the last two years.

The field includes Petit Paris and Little Jim, 4-year-olds who finished first and second in a $150,000 prep race over about 1 1/8 miles on March 6.

Americans in every event

There are American-based runners in every Thoroughbred race on the program.

Hard Buck, the winner of three stakes in Kentucky and Florida in the last six months, is the lone American-based entrant in the $2 million Sheema Classic over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Trained by Kenneth McPeek, Hard Buck was the upset winner of the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Feb. 22. He worked 1,000 meters (about five furlongs) on turf on Saturday in 1:03.68.

A Brazilian-bred, Hard Buck is making his second appearance in Dubai, having finished ninth in the 2003 UAE Derby, his final start before being sent to the United States.

The Sheema Classic is expected to have 13 entrants. The field is led by Fair Mix, a stakes winner here on March 6.

In the $1 million Godolphin Mile on dirt, During, the winner of the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes at Santa Anita in January, faces a fellow Californian, Excessivepleasure, who is winless in his last three starts.

During finished second by a neck to Domestic Dispute in the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7. Domestic Dispute will start in the $6 million Dubai World Cup.

Sunday, During worked about five furlongs in 59.40 seconds in company with Medaglia d'Oro, a top contender for the World Cup. Saturday, Excessivepleasure worked about six furlongs in 1:15.