10/06/2004 11:00PM

Champagne king on Sun King's side


ELMONT, N.Y. - This year, trainer Nick Zito won his first Belmont Stakes and first Travers.

The Champagne? Zito's been there, done that, four times over.

Saturday, Zito will go for his fifth Champagne victory in the last seven years when he sends out the impressive maiden winner Sun King against the more seasoned Afleet Alex and Proud Accolade in a salty 133rd renewal of the race.

From 1998-2000, Zito won the Champagne with The Groom is Red, Greenwood Lake, and A P Valentine. Zito did not start a horse in the Champagne in 2001 and 2002, but won it again last year with Birdstone.

In terms of experience, Sun King closely resembles A P Valentine. Both horses lost their debuts, won their second starts, and then captured the Champagne. A P Valentine's maiden win was so strong, that he was actually the favorite in a large Champagne field that included Point Given.

Sun King, a son of Charismatic, also comes out off a strong maiden race. On Sept. 17, Sun King beat Patriot Act by a half-length, with those two almost 11 lengths clear of the rest of the field. Sun King earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 94 for the race.

Sun King was sneaky good in his debut, a 6 1/2-furlong race at Saratoga on Aug 28. Sun King broke slowly and was last of 12 until the top of the stretch. He altered course twice in the stretch, and though he was beaten nine lengths by Silver Train, Sun King was beaten only two lengths for second. Moreover, he galloped out past the winner entering the clubhouse turn.

"Going 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, you're going to get some pretty salty horses," Zito said. "We didn't think that would be his best distance. Pat [Day] finally got him running very, very late; he came with his run. We were impressed. Then, naturally, we were even more impressed running with Patriot Act. In my opinion, he's got all the tools. I'm hoping he has a big effort."

It would not have been surprising had Zito sent Sun King to Keeneland for the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, especially considering owner Tracy Farmer is from Lexington, Ky. But Zito preferred to keep Sun King at the track over which he won his maiden.

Zito is winless in five runnings of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with six runners. He said, however, that a strong effort by Sun King Saturday could earn him a spot in the Juvenile.

Galloping Grocer to await Sleepy Hollow

Galloping Grocer, the New York-bred who has won his first two career starts, will make his next start in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes on Oct. 23, trainer Dominick Schettino said.

Schettino said he and owner Bob Rosenthal believe the Sleepy Hollow would be a better way to develop the horse than running him in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne.

Schettino said that Galloping Grocer would use the Sleepy Hollow, a one-mile race, as a stepping-stone to the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 27.

Ghostzapper has slow work

Ghostzapper continued his preparation for the Breeders' Cup Classic by working six furlongs in 1:16.45 Thursday morning over Belmont's main track. Ghostzapper worked in company with Greek Sun, a 3-year-old turf horse. Greek Sun was credited with a six-furlong time of 1:16.62

Trainer Bobby Frankel said the work was a little slower than he was looking for, but said there was a little confusion between jockeys Javier Castellano, who worked Ghostzapper, and Edgar Prado, who was aboard Greek Sun.

"Prado said I was waiting for him, and Castellano said I was waiting for Prado," Frankel said.

Quest to Peak close to debut

It seems likely that Saturday's Grade 1 Beldame will be Sightseek's last start before she begins her career in the breeding shed, but her trainer, Bobby Frankel, can look forward to running her younger full sister Quest to Peak later this year.

A 2-year-old, Quest to Peak is in training at Saratoga and is up to breezing five furlongs, according to Frankel, who said the filly should run before the end of the year.

Frankel is quite familiar with Quest to Peak's family, having trained both Sightseek and her older half-sister Tates Creek, who was a Grade 1 winner and retired with $1.4 million in earnings. Sightseek, a multiple Grade 1 winner, is on the brink of $2 million in earnings.

Frankel trains Sightseek and Quest to Peak for their breeder, Prince Khalid Abdullah, who races as Juddmonte Farms. Frankel said Quest to Peak appears to be more forward than her older sisters, who didn't make their first start until they were 3 years old.

Quest to Peak is out of Viviana, a Mr. Prospector mare, and by Distant View.

Quest to Peak "is a big, bay filly and built strong," Frankel said. "I expect a lot out of her. I think she is the most precocious of this mare's horses."

Frankel can look forward to training more babies out of Viviana; a full brother to Sightseek was born this year.

Daydreaming to take on older

Daydreaming, who became a stakes winner in last Friday's Grade 3 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks at Hoosier Park, will be pointed to the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 26.

The $150,000 Top Flight, a mile race, will be Daydreaming's first start against older fillies and mares.

Trained by Shug McGaughey, Daydreaming won the 1 1/16-mile Indiana Oaks by 1 1/2 lengths over Capeside Lady, who finished a head in front of the favorite, Stellar Jayne.

McGaughey said he believes Daydreaming, who finished second in the Grade 1 Gazelle to Stellar Jayne here Sept. 11, is just hitting her best stride.

"Her last two races have been really good," McGaughey said. "She stepped up in the Gazelle, and I was pleased to see that she proved she belonged. It's all coming together for her; she's good right now."

McGaughey said that after the Top Flight he would prepare Daydreaming for a late-winter campaign in Florida.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson