09/20/2006 11:00PM

Discreet Cat scares off Jerome rivals


ELMONT, N.Y. - There are 33 3-year-olds nominated to the Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Breeders' Cup Handicap here on Oct. 1, but very few that are interested in running against the undefeated Discreet Cat.

Thus, the Belmont Park racing office may have to work overtime to get the race to fill.

As of Friday, the only horse who is considered definite to face Discreet Cat is Noonmark, who won his maiden here last fall by 10 1/4 lengths and ran third behind Songster and Too Much Bling in the Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup in June.

"The most intriguing thing about Noonmark is the races that he's run at Belmont Park have been very impressive," his trainer, Scott Blasi, said from Kentucky. "He broke his maiden in impressive fashion, and he ran a very good race in the Woody Stephens. Watching Discreet Cat run at Saratoga, it's a tall task for any horse right now. But that's a racetrack that our horse has an affinity for, and that's what everybody involved with the horse is thinking."

John Velazquez is scheduled to ride Noonmark, whose finished second to Sharp Humor in the Grade 2 Swale at Gulfstream in March.

One reason Velazquez will ride Noonmark is because trainer Todd Pletcher, for whom Velazquez rides first call, is not planning to run any of his five Jerome nominees.

Nick Zito also has five horses nominated to the Jerome, but as of Friday it was unclear if he was planning to run any. Bob Baffert has four nominated to the Jerome, but he is unlikely to ship any of them here.

Trainer Chuck Simon said he would be interested in running Brilliant Son if the race came up a four- or five-horse field.

"I'd take my chances if there were three or four," Simon said. "He's training really well. I wouldn't go in there with the illusion I could beat Discreet Cat."

Discreet Cat is 4 for 4 and is coming off a powerful 11-length win in a third-level allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 25. He has worked twice since then, including a five-furlong move in 1:01.60 on Monday.

Rondo done for the year

Rondo, another talented Godolphin 3-year-old runner, will not run again this year after bruising a hind cannon bone, assistant trainer Rick Mettee said.

"It's nothing major, but he'll need a couple of months off," Mettee said.

Rondo, a son of Grand Slam who cost $2.9 million at auction, won a six-furlong maiden race by 9 1/2 lengths at Saratoga on July 26. He covered the distance in 1:09.86 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103. He worked once since that race before his injury was diagnosed.

Meanwhile, Mettee said Afrashad, winner of an allowance race here on Sept. 14, will likely make his next start in the Grade 3, $250,000 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 7. Mettee said the Grade 1 Vosburgh, featuring Henny Hughes and Silver Train, is coming up too tough.

After winning his first three starts, Afrashad suffered his first loss when he finished fourth in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 12. Mettee said several factors may have played into that defeat.

"I thought he got a little rattled at Saratoga," Mettee said. "He was tough to saddle, he was tough going to the gate. I thought he'd run better than that. If he ran the race that day that he ran at Monmouth, then he doesn't get beat nine lengths."

Mettee also thought Afrashad didn't handle the Saratoga main track as well as he had Belmont's in the spring and in his last start.

Blasi stops on Chace City

Following his victory in last month's Grade 2 Saratoga Special, Chace City would have looked awfully good in Saturday's Grade 2 Futurity. But his connections have decided to stop on the multiple-stakes-winning juvenile and point to a 3-year-old campaign.

Without giving a concrete reason, Blasi, his trainer, said Chace City "has been stopped on and probably will not start until next year."

Chace City won 3 of 4 starts, including the Victory Stakes at Woodbine and the Saratoga Special. He finished fifth in the Bashford Manor after breaking poorly.

Tiz Wonderful, an impressive debut winner for Blasi at Saratoga, is in training at Churchill Downs right now but Blasi has no plans for his next start.

"I'm not planning on any of those kind of races for him," Blasi said. "This horse is maturing so much right now that I think we'll take a more conservative approach toward handling him. The way he's maturing, next year is going to be in his favor. I'm not ruling anything out with him yet. He will start in the month of October, I just don't know where."

Tiz Wonderful, a son of Tiznow, won his debut by 12 1/2 lengths at Saratoga on Sept. 2 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.

o Citronnade, a son of Lemon Drop Kid trained by Bobby Frankel, made a successful turf debut Thursday by running down Somethinaboutbetty to win the $69,500 Graceful Darby Stakes by a neck. Under Javier Castellano, Citronnade covered the seven furlongs in 1:21.92 over a firm Widener turf course and returned $13 to win.