05/05/2005 12:00AM

Don Six back at his best distance


ELMONT, N.Y. - No one knows exactly how the Kentucky Derby will unfold, but the proverbial crystal ball is much more clear regarding the favorite in each of the two sprint stakes to be run at Belmont Park on Saturday: Don Six is going to the front in the $100,000-added Bold Ruler Handicap, and Acey Deucey is going to wait, and then wait some more, before coming with her late run in the $200,000 Nassau County Breeders' Cup.

was turned over to trainer Scott Lake after an eighth-place finish in the Fall Highweight Handicap late last fall, and his improvement was both immediate and spectacular. He wired the Gravesend and Paumonok handicaps at six furlongs on Aqueduct's inner track, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 117 for the Paumonok effort, which Lake described as "explosive."

Three weeks later Don Six stretched out to seven furlongs in the General George Handicap at Laurel and built a five-length lead before being caught at the wire by Saratoga County, who went on to win the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai. Lake had mixed feelings about not making the trip to the Middle East, since the Golden Shaheen was at six furlongs, by far the best distance for Don Six.

"I know it's such a long, hard trip on a horse, and our ultimate goal is shooting for the Breeders' Cup," Lake said.

Don Six tried seven furlongs again in the Carter Handicap last month and set a screaming pace to midstretch before being overtaken by Forest Danger and Medallist. His six-furlong fraction of 1:07.48 in the Carter shaded Kelly Kip's official track record of 1:07.54 set back in 1999.

Don Six cuts back to six furlongs and drops in class for the Grade 3 Bold Ruler, which prompted Lake to say, "I'm a little on the confident side."

The weather forecast calls for rain Friday night and through Saturday afternoon. Don Six's only win from four starts on wet tracks came in May of his 3-year-old season, in the 1 1/16-mile Floor Show, a minor stakes at Delaware Park.

An off track could help Dashboard Drummer and Thunder Touch in the Bold Ruler. ran a career-best Beyer of 106 when he won an optional claimer in the mud at Aqueduct last time out; Thunder Touch is 2 for 2 in off going, including a win over Don Six in the Fall Highweight.

The probable speed of the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Nassau County is , but stay tuned, because that could change. The state of the field is in flux, as several of the 3-year-old fillies entered - Slew Motion, Seeking the Ante, Pretty Partisan, and probable favorite Acey Deucey - are New York-breds who are also nominated to Sunday's Bouwerie at seven furlongs.

"Our first preference is the Nassau County," said John Morrison, who trains Acey Deucey. "The only thing that might mess that up is the weather. As long as the track is in decent shape we'll probably run Saturday, but if there were to be a torrential downpour I'd be inclined to wait."

From four starts this year, Acey Deucey has won three times, including the Dearly Precious and Comely Stakes, along with a runner-up finish in the Cicada. She will be ridden Saturday by Diane Nelson.

"I think she can lay close," said Morrison. "The main thing is getting her settled. That's what Diane has done so well with her - wait and wait, and then pull the trigger. That's the key to this filly."