10/05/2007 12:00AM

Daaher dangerous in blinkers

EmailELMONT, N.Y. – Mike Luzzi said he noticed the change in Daaher immediately. With blinkers on for the first time, Daaher dragged Luzzi around Saratoga’s main track on Aug. 26 en route to a 13 3/4-length victory in a first-level allowance race.

Granted, an allowance race is not a graded stakes, but if Daaher is simply that much better with blinkers then he’ll be tough to handle in Sunday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park. The Jerome, a one-turn mile race restricted to 3-year-olds, drew a field of eight

“I know it was an easier race, but with the blinkers at Saratoga he was awesome,” said Luzzi, who had ridden Daaher to a third-place finish in the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie on July 15. “Broke sharp, he put me right in the race.”

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin wishes he would have put the blinkers on earlier.

“We wish we would have put the blinkers on for the Queen’s Plate because I think he would have won it,” McLaughlin said. “He just showed a different dimension running with the blinkers on.”

Luzzi doesn’t feel that turning back from 1 1/8 miles to a one-turn mile in the Jerome will inhibit Daaher, who will break from post 7.

“He has a high cruising speed and I think that will help him around one turn,” Luzzi said.

After winning his first two starts this year, it looked as though Vitruvius could develop into a major player in the 3-year-old division. But a severe skin disease sidelined him for most of the summer. He returned to the races on Sept. 1 in a second-level allowance race and finished second behind Owners Manual. At the top of the stretch, in that race it looked like Vitruvius would finish well back.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said that jockey Kent Desormeaux told him Vitruvius “picked up the bit on his own. If I had known he was going to kick in like that I’d have been ready. He took me by surprise.’”

Vitruvius, a full-brother to Metropolitan Handicap winner Corinthian, put in a solid six-furlong workout in 1:15.16 over Belmont’s main track Monday, covering the last three furlongs in 37.10 seconds.

Most Distinguished, trained by Nick Zito, won a first-level allowance race and was second in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes over this track in the spring. He won the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, before finishing a troubled fifth in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop.

Stunt Man, Chief’s Lake, Digger, Forefathers, and Owners Manual complete the field.