10/24/2007 12:00AM

Day One goes extra mile

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Discreet Cat, shown training on Sunday, returned from a six-month layoff and finished third in the Vosburgh last time out.
OCEANPORT, N.J. - Eight is not enough, and two days are better than one. These inspired calculations led the board of directors at Breeders' Cup Ltd. to come up with a whole new creation for their annual event, and thus the two-day weekend is born Friday at Monmouth Park at the 24th Breeders' Cup World Championships.

Three $1 million races - the BC Filly and Mare Sprint, BC Juvenile Turf, and BC Dirt Mile - will be run for the first time Friday on a 10-race card that begins at 12:30 p.m. Eastern. In that order, they are the last three races of the day - a day traditionally reserved for a more understated buildup but now assimilated into the big show.

While the Filly and Mare Sprint drew 10 starters and the Juvenile Turf drew the turf-course limit of 12, the Dirt Mile has a field of nine - and it could drop to just eight. Forefathers was cross-entered in the Dirt Mile and the BC Sprint on Saturday, and trainer Bill Mott had yet to announce Wednesday which race owner Ahmed Zayat had selected for the colt.

In any case, there seems little doubt that Discreet Cat will be favored in the Dirt Mile, which actually is a misnomer because the race will be run at a mile and 70 yards because of Monmouth's track configuration. The images of Discreet Cat rolling to six straight victories to start his career have scarcely faded among the wagering public, despite his startling lack of good recent form. Now that he has a prep in the Grade 1 Vosburgh under his belt, Breeders' Cup fans will lean toward him over a challenging cast that includes such formidable types as Corinthian, Wanderin Boy, and Gottcha Gold.

Discreet Cat, owned by the Godolphin powerhouse and based at Belmont Park with Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, had his final prerace workout Sunday, drilling a bullet 57.40 seconds over his home track. Mettee expressed confidence that Discreet Cat, a 4-year-old Forestry colt, will be able to return to the form that carried him to smashing triumphs in the UAE Derby, Jerome Handicap, and Cigar Mile in his sensational 3-year-old season.

"I think we may have him back to the level he was at for the Cigar Mile," said Mettee.

Discreet Cat will be ridden by Garrett Gomez, who arguably has become the premier jockey in North America and leads the national standings in earnings with nearly $18 million. Gomez was aboard Discreet Cat in his last start, the Sept. 30 Vosburgh, a six-furlong race that was his first start in six months and resulted in a decent third-place finish.

Discreet Cat will break from post 1 as the 2-1 morning-line favorite. Corinthian, the 7-2 second choice, was assigned post 8, and like Discreet Cat, he is a 4-year-old colt trying to recapture top form after two lackluster races. Both colts also will have to come from off a solid early pace that figures to be contested by Wanderin Boy (post 3), High Finance (post 5), and Gottcha Gold (post 6).

Indeed, it is how that trio of speedsters handle each other that figures critical in the outcome. Nick Zito, trainer of Wanderin Boy, said he and owner Arthur Hancock initially were inclined to run the 6-year-old horse in the BC Classic before opting out.

"The Classic has come up tough," said Zito. "This is a nice race, a Breeders' Cup race. It's a nice race to win."

To win, Wanderin Boy may simply have to outfoot them all. In all of his eight career victories, he has led from the start, so jockey Javier Castellano probably will have few options other than to send his mount.

That strategy could complicate things for High Finance, who also has run his best races out front, and for Gottcha Gold, a locally based horse whose 5-for-8 record over his home track makes him a stronger factor than he might have been otherwise. In fact, in the June 23 Salvator Mile at Monmouth, Gottcha Gold led wire to wire in defeating Lawyer Ron, who went on to establish himself as the nation's top handicap runner soon thereafter.

High Finance has been alternately brilliant and bad. The 4-year-old colt has earned huge Beyer Speed Figures in several victories, but he also has been disappointing in key races such as his last one, the Grade 1 Forego, a Sept. 1 race in which he was beaten nearly 18 lengths as the 2-1 favorite. Trainer Rick Violette said he has no plausible explanation for the Forego and that he expects a much improved effort Friday.

"He just didn't run in the Forego," said Violette.

Besides Forefathers (post 4), a 3-year-old with two career wins, the rest of the Dirt Mile field is Lewis Michael (post 2), Park Avenue Ball (post 7), and the only other 3-year-old entered, Xchanger (post 9). Of those, Lewis Michael, a Midwest standout who ran fourth as the favorite when venturing to California for the Goodwood Breeders' Cup earlier this month, will take the most action.

"We couldn't be more pleased with the way he's coming up to this race," said trainer Wayne Catalano.

Post time for the Dirt Mile is 5:35 p.m. Eastern. All three of Friday's Breeders' Cup races will be televised live on a two-hour ESPN2 broadcast that begins at 4 p.m. Post time for the Filly and Mare Sprint is 4:25, and the Juvenile Turf is set for 5.

Daily double wagering will be offered on Friday's Dirt Mile and Saturday's BC Mile on turf, and on Friday's Filly and Mare Sprint and Saturday's BC Sprint.

The weather forecast for both Friday and Saturday calls for a chance of showers, with a high temperature in the mid-60s. While the limit of 43,000 tickets already has been sold out for Saturday, the Friday crowd is expected to be about half of that, according to BC officials.

The first Friday in BC history precedes a Saturday card that includes the same eight races that have made up the traditional Breeders' Cup program in recent years. From 1984 to 1998, only seven BC races were held, with the Filly and Mare Turf added in 1999. Gross BC purses Saturday will total $20 million, capped by the $5 million Classic.