10/05/2007 11:00PM

Diamond Stripes has help in Meadowlands Cup

EmailEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Diamond Stripes won the Grade 2, $500,000 Meadowlands Cup on Friday night with a little help from a friend.

Uncoupled stablemate Mr. Umphrey played the role of rabbit in the 1 1/8 miles race, opening a wide lead on the speed-favoring track at 71-1.

"I thought he was a winner turning for home," said his trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr.

When Mr. Umphrey started to fade, the real running began with Diamond Stripes ($4.20) digging in to hold off Magna Graduate by a half-length with the late-running Xchanger only a nose back in third.

John Velazquez, the rider of Magna Graduate, lodged a claim of foul, alleging interference at the top of the stretch. The stewards found no reason for a disqualification.

"That other horse come out and definitely intimidated my horse," Velazquez said. "I took a shot and the result didn’t come out the way I had hoped."

With the win, Diamond Stripes moves solidly into the Breeders’ Cup mix. Which race he runs in remains unresolved.

The $5 million Classic at 1 1/4 miles might be too long for a horse who has run best at 1 1/8 miles. The $1 million Dirt Mile could be too short.

"I’m not sure he’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse but some of the tougher horses might not like Monmouth as much and he trained there over the summer," Dutrow said. "But then I might go for the Dirt Mile. I am not dreaming of the Classic."

It was the second win in five starts this year for Diamond Stripes, ending a string of three straight seconds, all in Grade 1 handicaps.

While Mr. Umphrey set the early pace, Diamond Stripes and jockey Cornelio Velasquez were sixth in traffic. They rallied between rivals entering the stretch and pulled clear in the final strides.

The time was 1:48.36 for 1 1/8 miles.

Awfully Smart was fourth followed by Mr. Umphrey. Utopia, the 2-1 second choice, was fractious in the paddock. He finished sixth, one spot better than the trailer, Praying for Cash.

* In the supporting stakes: Joey P. rallied to beat Bound Notebook by a head in the $76,700 Eillo; Exchanging Fire was the front-running winner of the $60,000 Honey Bee; and Dubai Cat captured the $60,000 John Henry on the turf.