Updated on 09/18/2011 1:13AM

Discreet Cat's talent hard to gauge


PHILADELPHIA - So, how good is Discreet Cat?

We all have seen the effortless victories over hopelessly overmatched opponents, the speed to be in front at any distance, the acceleration to blow a race open at any moment. The Beyer Speed Figures - 106 as a 2-year-old first time starter in August 2005, the 112 he earned in that Saratoga allowance, and the 115 he got when dominating Sunday's Jerome - tell a story.

Still, how good is this colt, unbeaten winner of five starts over 35 opponents by nearly 35 lengths?

A few hours before the Belmont Stakes, I was walking through the tunnel that connects the paddock to the backstretch when I ran into Rick Mettee, a friend from our days in Maryland.

I remember when Mettee worked with $3,000 claimers at Bowie. He graduated to the John Gosden operation in Southern California. Now, he is in charge of Godolphin's American string. Mettee is doing so well that Godolphin's trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, is 14 for 29 (48 percent) in North America this year.

I wanted to know about some of the Godolphin horses, especially Discreet Cat. When the name came up, Mettee smiled like he knew this was the horse that might have all the answers.

We know what the colt has done in his three American starts. The two Dubai races this winter are a bit confusing.

When I first started doing some research for this story, I thought I understood precisely how good Discreet Cat's races were over there. The key, I assumed, was Invasor's fourth behind Discreet Cat in the UAE Derby. Invasor was beaten by seven lengths in that race, the only loss of a nine-race career.

In his three American races, Invasor's Beyer has gone up each time - 108, 111, 113. So, let's assume Invasor got something like a 105 in Dubai. That would mean that Discreet Cat got around a 118 in that 1 1/8-mile race. While that's certainly possible, further research indicates it is unlikely.

Testimony finished second in the UAE Derby, six lengths back. That colt is just 1 for 9 in his career. In his only two American stakes starts, he was badly beaten in the Iroquois last year and the Peter Pan this year. Two weeks ago, he was fourth in a nonwinners-of-two-lifetime allowance at Belmont Park. His best Beyer is a 90 when he won his maiden in the slop last fall.

Japanese horse Flamme de Passion was third in the UAE Derby. The colt hasn't raced since and I have no idea what his Japanese form means.

Golden Acer was second to Discreet Cat in the other Dubai race. Prior to that, his only two wins were in five-furlong grass races in England. He also hasn't raced since. Apparently, racing against Discreet Cat is discouraging. Which may be the most relevant point.

It is difficult to measure Discreet Cat against his competition because none of those horses has ever been close to him in the stretch. The colt wins with such ease that the answer to the initial question can't be answered, at least not yet.

After saying Discreet Cat would not go on to the Breeders' Cup, Mettee is now saying the stable will keep its options open until after this weekend. If Bernardini somehow does not fire in the Jockey Club Gold Cup or Henny Hughes does not have it in the Vosburgh, the Maktoum family could have a rather nice substitute for the Nov. 4 Classic or Sprint. What other horse in modern times beside Discreet Cat could potentially be favored in either of those races? I can think of one - the recently deceased Precisionist.

At the moment, however, Discreet Cat looks like Breeders' Cup overkill for the Maktoums. Most likely, we will have to wait until the Nov. 25 Cigar Mile to see Discreet Cat in action again. After that, it would be no surprise if the colt heads back to Dubai in search of the Dubai World Cup.

In the Jerome, Discreet Cat attracted $368,000 of the $398,000 bet in the place pool. This was a bridge for fishing, not jumping. In a sport with no sure things, Discreet Cat has been just that. And, just think, the colt was 5-1 in his first start. If we only knew then what we know now.