10/19/2007 12:00AM

Discreet Cat has work cut out

EmailPHOENIX - It's getting down to crunch time and there are some pertinent questions as we near Breeders' Cup liftoff.

* Will Discreet Cat return to his best form in the Dirt Mile?

We kept hearing all sorts of optimistic sentiments coming from the Godolphin camp prior to Discreet Cat's comeback in the Vosburgh, only to hear afterward that, well, six furlongs is a bit too sharp, he needed the race, etc.

Fact is he showed little of the spark that he showed in 2006. I wouldn't be shocked in the least to see him improve, but at this stage of the game, after two big layoffs, some significant setbacks and only a modest return run at Belmont last month, it may not be fair or reasonable to believe we're going to see the pre-2007 Discreet Cat again.

There are other problems, as speedsters Commentator, High Finance, Wanderin Boy and Gottcha Gold ensure the pace is hot. Discreet Cat stalks the pace but sometimes hasn't been able to sustain his bid. The race sets up perfectly for Corinthian, who showed his ability at this type of game when a powerful winner of the Met Mile. That day he sat in midpack behind hot splits and powered home.

* Can Majestic Warrior rebound in Juvenile?

Absolutely. Many a time you see dramatic form upheavals with juveniles. Maybe his sixth-place finish in the Champagne last out was just one of those days, or maybe he didn't enjoy being on the inside.

If trainer Bill Mott feels good enough about him to run, he should indeed bounce back, particularly since the race shape may be right up his alley with the likes of confirmed speed types War Pass and Wicked Style in the field.

* Can anyone beat Dylan Thomas in the Turf?


Okay, I've thought about it another 20 seconds . . . the answer is still no. I hear the historians saying that no Arc winner has come over to win the Turf. Well, no BC Juvenile champ had ever won the Derby, and we fixed that. We're only talking about four Arc winners, hardly a significant sample. Odds are Dylan Thomas won't need his best form against a nice but hardly overwhelming group of U.S. turf stayers.

* Who is going to win the Sprint?

Midnight Lute is the horse to beat coming off his devastating win the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. But that race was at seven furlongs, and immediately after that race trainer Bob Baffert said he thought the six furlongs of the BC Sprint was too short for Midnight Lute. Has he changed his mind? After all, if he really believed that he could wait another few weeks and target the Grade 1 Cigar Mile instead. The monster filly La Traviata, winner of her three starts by more than 27 lengths, is expected to go here instead of facing the girls. Fillies have done well here but it won't be easy.

The presence of Attila's Storm, La Traviata, Smokey Stover, Idiot Proof and other significant speed leads to a dream set-up for Greg's Gold, who was brutally unlucky when a much-troubled second in the Grade 1 Ancient Title a few weeks ago.

* Can Nashoba's Key stay perfect in the F&M Turf?

The big issue is the competition. Yes, Citronnade is very good and Nashoba's Key ran her down in the Yellow Ribbon, but Citronnade isn't here, an indication she's not on top of her game. Aside from those two, the California distance distaffers aren't that formidable.

I think Wait a While shows up with her "A" game and wins. Her Flower Bowl was disappointing because she seemed to be in such a perfect spot, particularly after seemingly returning to top form at Saratoga in her prior race, but maybe she's not a big fan of the Belmont courses. A return to her Saratoga form topples Nashoba's Key for the first time.

* Can Lawyer Ron take a stand for the elders in the Classic, or does this race boil down to the 3-year-old championship?

Lawyer Ron has shown he can get the 1 1/4 miles of the Classic, but it still may not be his ideal game. He loves 1 1/8 miles, and even more so at Saratoga. But we're not at Saratoga, and we're not going 1 1/8 miles. He couldn't beat Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup when that rival was returning from a layoff.

Hard Spun and Lawyer Ron can rate, but as soon as one sees the other break sharply, off they will go. They may not go fast, but odds are they'll be pulling, and to me both are suspect under such circumstances going 1 1/4 miles. Curlin makes his run. Ditto Any Given Saturday. But what I've come to expect is that on the biggest day, on the biggest stage, when getting a legitimate pace and race shape, Street Sense is da man. And after he storms home to narrowly frustrate an again-valiant Curlin, they can etch his name on that Horse of the Year trophy.