11/23/2006 12:00AM

Discreet Cat primed for hardest test


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Ordinarily, trainers are looking to run their horses in the easiest possible spot. But in the case of Discreet Cat, trainer Rick Mettee is looking forward to giving his undefeated 3-year-old his sternest test to date in Saturday's $300,000 Cigar Mile.

"He's ready to be pushed," said Mettee, who oversees Godolphin Racing's New York division. "I hope he is pushed."

In making his first start in a Grade 1 race, Discreet Cat will meet graded stakes winners Silver Train, Badge of Silver, Sharp Humor, and Dixie Meister in the one-turn mile race. Assigned 124 pounds, Discreet Cat will be conceding four to nine pounds to the rest of the field.

Discreet Cat, a son of Grade 1 winners Forestry and Pretty Discreet, has been dominant in winning all five of his starts by a combined 34 3/4 lengths. That includes a victory against Invasor in the United Arab Emirates Derby in March, an 11-length allowance win over subsequent Stuyvesant Handicap winner Accountforthegold in August, and a 10 1/4-length win in the Grade 2 Jerome on Oct. 1.

While those last two races were not the North American campaign Mettee and owner Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum laid out for Discreet Cat, an illness incurred in mid-June forced him to miss races such as the Dwyer, Jim Dandy, and Haskell. Being a Grade 1 run as a one-turn mile, the Cigar Mile became Discreet Cat's target since late summer.

"I do think we have to win a Grade 1 with him, and this is the best one for him," Mettee said. "I have a lot of respect for those horses and those trainers in there. I'm sure they're going to be keyed up to run against us, but in a one-turn mile you feel pretty good about your chances."

Dale Romans, the trainer of fellow 3-year-old Sharp Humor, is looking forward to trying Discreet Cat. No horse came closer to beating a healthy Barbaro this spring than Sharp Humor, who came within a half-length of that horse in the Florida Derby.

Sharp Humor, a New York-bred son of Distorted Humor, finished 19th behind Barbaro in the Kentucky Derby, but emerged from that race with a knee chip that required surgery. He returned to the races on Oct. 21 in the Hudson Handicap for New York-breds and was beaten a neck by the underrated Gold and Roses.

"I thought he ran the race he was supposed to run," Romans said. "Take nothing away from the winner, but when he saw him on the outside he tried to surge again. He runs well hooked; he always has."

Sharp Humor gets in at 115 pounds and will break from post 5 just outside of Discreet Cat, who will be ridden by Garrett Gomez. These horses could hook up from the outset.

"My horse has run against tough horses before," Romans said. "Discreet Cat is obviously a super horse, but I don't think he's hooked the best competition yet."

As the winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint and this year's Metropolitan Handicap, Silver Train is the most accomplished rival Discreet Cat will face Saturday. But Silver Train is coming off a last-place finish in the Grade 1 Vosburgh last month, giving the usually confident Richard Dutrow Jr. reason to pause entering the Cigar Mile.

"If Silver Train would have run big last time then I would more excited about this," Dutrow said. "There has to be a reason why he didn't run his race. I don't see it, but I know it's there."

Badge of Silver, a graded winner on dirt and turf, still seeks his first Grade 1 win. The 6-year-old son of Silver Deputy makes his third consecutive start in the Cigar Mile, having finished second in this race in 2004 and eighth last year as the 2-1 favorite.

Owner Ken Ramsey started thinking about the Cigar Mile the day after Badge of Silver finished third in the Breeders' Cup Mile. In expressing a desire to run against Discreet Cat, Ramsey noted that top 3-year-olds Bernardini and Henny Hughes were beaten in their respective Breeders' Cup races.

"Three-year-olds are at a disadvantage running against older horses, even this late in the year," Ramsey said. "Bernardini didn't make it. If this time-tested, old hard-knocking horse looks Discreet Cat in the eye, I think he might possibly blink."

Dixie Meister, unraced since winning the Gradeo2 Californian in June, has shipped in from California for trainer Julio Canani.

The Cigar Mile is the final Grade 1 race of the year to be run in New York. It shares billing Saturday with the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen for juvenile colts and the Grade 2, $200,000 Demoiselle for juvenile fillies.

First post Saturday is 12:25 p.m.