06/02/2005 11:00PM

Disbelief looks like a serious Cup player

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Disbelief, a $7,500 claim by trainer John Simms in Tampa Bay this winter, will be a formidable force at Fort Erie when the track serves up its Cup races in August.

The four Cup races for male runners are the Don Valliere Memorial Cup, the Peace Bridge Cup, the Parnitha Cup, and the very popular Puss n Boots Cup. The purse for each is $30,000.

Last year, three previous starts at the meet were required for eligibility. The 2005 restrictions have not been finalized as yet.

Disbelief had his first Canadian start on May 23 at Fort Erie. Racing wide throughout the 6 1/2-furlong allowance race for nonwinners-of-three, Disbelief came from last to beat nine opponents.

On Tuesday, at the same distance and using the same style in a field of five, Disbelief repeated his success in a $12,500 starter allowance. The time was 1:17.13, more than a second faster than his previous effort of 1:18.19.

"I didn't like coming back to race in just eight days," said Simms, "but the $12,500 starter was hard to pass up with a horse of that caliber, especially with a small field shaping up. He'll get a rest now."

The win was the sixth of the meet for Simms, and it tied him with Nick Gonzalez at the top of the standings. With only 13 starters, Simms sports a gaudy winning rate of 46 percent.

There was a race on the Preakness Day program at Pimlico that Disbelief, a Maryland-bred, was eligible to run in, but Simms decided not to go.

"I didn't think he was quite at his best," said Simms. "I'm considering taking him to the Maryland Millions later in the year."

Gonzalez knows the numbers game

Nick Gonzalez has been a top trainer at the Fort for years, but he has never won the training title. He's off to a strong start this meet, with six wins going into Saturday's races.

"Usually, if you want to be leading trainer, it boils down to numbers," said Gonzalez. "I've never really had them, even when I've had 20-plus horses. Half would usually run at Woodbine. The same will eventually happen here. The numbers will catch up to me."

Gonzalez has 17 horses, including four 2-year-olds, in his barn. Four of the horses - including Wholelottabourbon, last year's Canadian champion 2-year-old - race at Woodbine. Gonzalez also has scored five times at Woodbine. His latest winner in Toronto was Bill Dandy on Wednesday.

Gonzalez would love to have Fort Erie card a race that Wholelottabourbon could compete in.

"It wouldn't matter to me what the purse would be, or what kind of race," he said. "It would be for the horse and for the fans. I'd look forward to race at the track where he has trained for most of his life."