08/25/2006 12:00AM

Discreet Cat back better than ever

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In his first race since winning the UAE Derby in March, Discreet Cat crushes older allowance horses by 11 lengths on Friday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Any trainer with a good 3-year-old pointing for Belmont Park's Jerome Handicap on Oct. 1 might want to start considering other options after watching Godolphin's Discreet Cat destroy a strong field of older allowance horses by 11 lengths here Friday.

In a performance reminiscent of Bernardini's lopsided victory in the Jim Dandy earlier in the meet, Discreet Cat rated off the early pace before cruising to the lead approaching the quarter pole as his jockey, Garrett Gomez, sat like a statue. Discreet Cat, an undefeated son of Forestry, then proceeded to steadily widen his margin. Gomez looked around several times for his competition and allowed Discreet Cat to lope along through the stretch without any urging.

Despite cruising through the final quarter-mile, Discreet Cat completed seven furlongs in 1:21.53, the fastest clocking for the distance during the meet. What made the performance even more astonishing is that it came in Discreet Cat's first start since he easily won the United Arab Emirates Derby on March 25, and that he came into the race "a good two works short of being spot-on fit," according to Godolphin's assistant trainer, Rick Mettee.

"That was a relief and a weight off our shoulders to get him back, since everything is magnified with a horse like this," said Mettee, who saddled Discreet Cat in the absence of trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He really surprised me, how much speed he showed. He was wound up pretty good coming out of the gate, but we wanted to teach him something today so we had Garrett take him off the pace.

"I thought he might be a work or two short and would have to grind the leaders down the last part, and I was surprised by how easily he got by them around the turn."

Discreet Cat was purchased privately by Godolphin Racing from Mrs. Einar Robsham after he won a six-furlong maiden race by 3 1/2 lengths here last summer. Discreet Cat was sent to Dubai for the winter, and he won two races there within 17 days in March, including the UAE Derby by six lengths. That field included Invasor, who captured the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap here earlier in the meet.

Godolphin made the decision to skip the Kentucky Derby and point Discreet Cat for a summer campaign in the United States that was to have included the Travers. But after he missed a month of training due to illness, the immediate goal became the Jerome.

"This will give us five weeks to the Jerome, and a one-turn mile at Belmont looks like a pretty good spot for him," said Mettee. "After that we have no definite plans. He might stay in the U.S. for one more race, although I don't think we'll see him in the Breeders' Cup this year."

Sun King works for Woodward

Sun King, who dropped a tough nose decision to Invasor in the Whitney in easily the most exciting race of the meet, worked five furlongs in 1:00.69 under exercise rider Maxine Correa on the Oklahoma training track Friday. Sun King is being pointed to the Grade 1 Woodward Handicap here next Saturday.

"He looked great and I was very happy with the work," said Nick Zito, who trains Sun King for Tracy Farmer. "Naturally it was frustrating to have him get beat like that in the Whitney in what was unquestionably the best race of the year so far. He's such a wonderful horse, and I think he's really established himself now."

Sun King will likely face eight or nine rivals in the Woodward, including stablemate Andromeda's Hero, Flower Alley, Funny Cide, Papi Chullo, Premium Tap, Second of June, Suave, and Wild Desert.

Sheikh Maktoum's son buys West Virginia

West Virginia, among the 27 nominees to the Woodward, has been purchased privately by Sheikh Rajid al-Maktoum, the son of Godolphin owner Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum, trainer Todd Pletcher confirmed Friday. Sheik Rajid is also the owner of Henny Hughes, the odds-on favorite for Saturday's Grade 1 King's Bishop Handicap.

West Virginia, a New York-bred son of Tomorrows Cat, was previously owned by R. Mary Zuckerman. Pletcher said the 5-year-old will remain in his barn and be pointed for the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap on Sept. 16, then the Empire Classic for New York-breds on Oct. 21.

Pletcher said no terms of the sale were disclosed.

War Front drills to prepare for Forego

War Front, who rallied to a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt Breeders' Cup Handicap here on Aug. 12, worked five furlongs in 59.06 seconds Friday in preparation for next Saturday's Grade 1 Forego Handicap.

"He went a little faster than I wanted this morning, although the rider only asked him the final eighth," said Allen Jerkens, who trains War Front for owner-breeder Joseph Allen. "So far he's been a very consistent horse, and we were very unlucky not to win a couple of those other races, especially the Mr. Prospector in Florida when he got knocked back to fourth and just got beat a neck.

"This race is coming up very tough, but it's a Grade 1 so you have to expect that. But it will make him a very valuable horse at stud if he could ever get lucky enough to win a Grade 1."

A field of eight or nine is shaping up for the seven-furlong Forego. Along with War Front, it figures to include Awesome Twist, Commentator, Silver Wagon, Greeley's Galaxy, Nightmare Affair, and Pomeroy. Others being considered for the race are Judiths Wild Rush, Swingforthefences, and Mister Fotis.

Swingforthefences has not started since suffering a suspensory injury after finishing fourth behind Commentator in the 2005 Whitney.

"He breezed great here the other day, and if he has a good blowout this week we'll consider the Forego," said trainer Rick Violette. "I would have liked to have gotten a prep into him before this race, but things didn't quite work out. He has always run well fresh, and there is a lot to be said for winning a race like the Forego."

Leparoux tops apprentice mark

When he guided Trick's Pic ($15.80) to victory in Friday's fourth race at Saratoga, jockey Julien Leparoux recorded his 21st victory of the meet. That number is believed to be the record for wins by an apprentice rider at Saratoga. The previous mark is believed to be 20, set by Richard Migliore in 1981.

"It's a pretty nice honor," said Leparoux, who leads the nation in total wins. "I've had a pretty good year so far. I'm hoping to continue that for the rest of his year. I've ridden some pretty nice horses for trainers and owners, and I'm thankful for that."

Leparoux added win No. 22 when he won the nightcap aboard Meeses to Pieces.

Salzman gets days after all

After initially being held blameless for a medication positive regarding the 2-year-old City Avenger, trainer Tim Salzman was suspended seven days for the finding of a second banned substance in that horse's system. City Avenger finished third in the second race at Belmont Park on June 25.

Veterinary records showed that City Avenger was given the drug glycopyrrolate, which serves as a bronchodilator, outside the legal time frame permitted in New York. According to the stewards, glycopyrrolate is permitted 96 hours out from a race in New York, but 48 hours out from a race in Maryland, where Salzman is based.

Earlier, the stewards had not blamed Salzman for the finding of fluphenazine in City Avenger's system because veterinary records showed that the drug was given within the legal time frame and must have lingered in the horse's system. City Avenger was ruled unplaced in the order of finish.

Salzman's suspension was to begin Saturday and run through Sept. 1.

- additional reporting by David Grening