07/11/2006 11:00PM

Commentator returns a winner

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Jockey Eibar Coa had ridden horses against Commentator several times last year and thought him to be a very aggressive horse. So Coa was pleasantly surprised when a most relaxed Commentator took him on a successful 6 1/2-furlong jaunt around Belmont Park's main track Wednesday afternoon.

Making his first start since last September's Woodward, Commentator cruised to a 6 1/4-length victory in the $67,200 Mugatea Stakes for New York-breds. Commentator shrugged off early pace pressure from Bold Decision and a midrace challenge from Gold and Roses before pulling away from the latter in upper stretch. He ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.76 and returned $2.20 as the 1-9 favorite. "I really thought he was going to be very aggressive and a horse that is going to pull me going fast," said Coa, who rode Commentator for the first time. "But he really surprised me the way he went. He broke fast, but he relaxed for me. I was able to do anything I wanted to him; when [Gold and Roses] got close to me, I pushed him and he just gave me that extra something."

Commentator, a 5-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor, ran his record to 8 wins from 10 starts. In the Woodward, he aggravated a shin injury that first occurred in the Hal's Hope Stakes in January 2005. Last year, Commentator returned off that layoff to win a six-furlong sprint race and then the Grade 1 Woodward at nine furlongs.

"I was impressed the way he drew away," trainer Nick Zito said from Saratoga. "When you add everything together it was a good race. The weather, the heat, how he had to come back, short race, decent horse he ran against, I thought it was very good." Zito was noncommittal on whether he would keep Commentator sprinting or stretch him out again. Two Grade 1 races that Commentator could be pointed to - the seven-furlong Forego or the nine-furlong Woodward - are both run on Sept. 2 at Saratoga. Zito said he would not run Commentator back in the Whitney on Aug. 5.

Said Coa: "I don't know what Nick's plan is, but I really believe he can do whatever he wants with this horse. He might be able to have fun again with him this summer."