06/10/2006 12:00AM

Change of tactics pays off for Cacique


ELMONT, N.Y. - After two late runs fell short in Grade 1 company, Cacique changed tactics and his luck as he won a thrilling edition of the $400,000 at Belmont Park.

Sent to the front under Edgar Prado, who was riding him for the first time, Cacique turned back a pace challenge from English Channel, then held off a late run from Relaxed Gesture to win the Grade 1 Manhattan by a short head. Relaxed Gesture, beaten one-half length in this race last year, finished second by a neck over Grey Swallow. Kent Desormeaux, the jockey on Relaxed Gesture, dropped his whip inside the eighth pole.

Cacique joined siblings Banks Hill, Intercontinental, Dansili, and Heat Haze as Grade 1 winners thrown by the mare Hasili.

Cacique was beaten a neck in the Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita and a half-length in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill when his late runs fell short. With no pace in the Manhattan, Prado decided to play the break before deciding which tactics he would use.

When Cacique broke sharply, Prado let the horse settle into stride and he raced on the lead inside of English Channel, under John Velazquez. The two alternated leads through comfortable fractions of 24.71 seconds, 51.30, and 1:16.66.

Turning into the stretch, Cacique and English Channel began to sprint, while Relaxed Gesture was guided off the rail for the stretch drive. Cacique was able to put away English Channel, and hung on as Relaxed Gesture ran out of ground.

Cacique, owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bobby Frankel, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:04.10 over yielding turf and returned $6.40 to win as the favorite.

"He seemed like he was full of run that first quarter of a mile, and once he took the lead he relaxed pretty good," Prado said. "I didn't have any pressure, so that helps a lot, too. He was a little late switching leads. I kind of had to bounce him around. Once he switched he caught another gear. He didn't see [Relaxed Gesture]. Once he saw him, and after the wire, he picked it up again."

Relaxed Gesture ran a tremendous race considering the slow pace and the fact that he was coming off a poor performance in the Dubai Sheema Classic in March.

"It's really upsetting to get beat like that in a Grade 1," said Christophe Clement, the trainer of Relaxed Gesture. "The horse ran a great race - he was in the back, slow pace, he finished very well. I wish our jockey did not lose the whip, but that happens. But we'll live to fight another day."