06/09/2006 12:00AM

Dwyer, not turf, for Strong Contender


ELMONT, N.Y. - The Belmont Stakes signals the end to the Triple Crown and the first half of the season for 3-year-olds. In less than four weeks, the second half of the season will kick off with the running of the $150,000 Dwyer Stakes on July 4.

Strong Contender made a brief impact in the division with a stirring comeback victory in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in February. He failed to build off that race with a well-beaten third-place finish in the Blue Grass and another third-place finish in the Peter Pan.

John Ward, Strong Contender's trainer, initially thought about trying Strong Contender next on the turf. But after re-evaluating the Peter Pan, Ward will keep Strong Contender on the dirt and will point him to the Grade 2 Dwyer, run at 1 1/16 miles.

"He got a pretty good number in the Peter Pan and he didn't like the racetrack at all,'' Ward said.

Ward said Strong Contender came up with a cough a week after the Peter Pan. Due to the cough and the wet weather, Ward has not been able to work Strong Contender since the Peter Pan. He will likely breeze over the weekend or early next week.

"Now that we've finalized our plans to run in the Dwyer I got all the time in the world," Ward said. "The time will help him, being such a late foal.''

Strong Contender, a son of Maria's Mon, was born in May. He won his debut last August at Arlington, but suffered an injury that sidelined him the remainder of the year. He impressed many observers with his entry-level allowance win at Gulfstream.

Another 3-year-old pointing to the Dwyer is Discreet Cat, the undefeated 3-year-old who has not run since winning the United Arab Emirates Derby at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai on March 25.

Second take for Sands Point scratches

Three horses who scratched out of last week's $100,000 Sands Point Handicap when that race came off the turf, will get another chance to earn stakes glory in Sunday's $65,000 The Late Bloomer Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Widener Turf.

Perilous Pursuit, who looked like a value play in the Sands Point, may be the horse to beat in the Late Bloomer. She rallied from 10 lengths back despite slow fractions to win a one-mile allowance race against older females at Aqueduct. With Stolen Prayer and Beautiful Daniele in the field, the pace should be honest in the Late Bloomer.

Zaynab and Crystal Current also scratched out of the Sands Point. Zaynab made a nice North American debut wining an entry-level allowance race at Aqueduct in April. She may be more tractable than Perilous Pursuit. After two poor efforts in graded dirt stakes last month, Crystal Current tries turf for the first time.

Trainer Patrick Biancone entered the coupled entry of Pure Incentive and Kitty Hawk, but will only run one since he named Garrett Gomez on both. Kitty Hawk broke slowly when finishing fourth as the favorite in the Edgewood at Churchill.

Rathor pointed to Suburban

Though Rathor has won all three of his starts since coming to North America, trainer Bobby Frankel has been hesitant to get too high on the Irish-bred son of Machiavellian. Frankel will give Rathor an opportunity to win him over when he runs next in the Grade 1, $400,000 Suburban Handicap at 1 1/4 miles here on July 1.

"His numbers haven't been that fast,'' Frankel said when asked why he has yet to tout Rathor.

Frankel said the horse has won his three allowance races in New York easily and is interested to see how he does when he faces better company.

"I think the distance is going to help him,'' Frankel said, pointing out that jockey Eibar Coa told him he thinks the horse is improving. "He's a nice horse, he puts himself in a good spot, he doesn't do anything wrong.''

Zito targets Whitney for Sun King

Sun King has run extremely well in his last two one-turn races, but trainer Nick Zito plans to stretch his 4-year-old colt out around two turns again later this summer in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 5. Zito said he would look for "an easy race'' for Sun King at Belmont before then.

Sun King has won 6 of 18 career starts with three graded stakes wins around two turns and a victory in the Grade 2 Commonwealth, a one-turn, seven-furlong race at Keeneland. In his most recent start, Sun King finished a fast-closing second to Silver Train in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day. He earned a career-best 112 Beyer Speed Figure for that performance.

Storm Boot Gold upsets Ormsby

Storm Boot Gold was sent directly to the front under jockey Mike Luzzi, then turned back a challenge from 6-5 favorite Gold and Roses at the quarter pole to win Thursday's $68,750 Ormsby Stakes for New York-bred colts and geldings.

Storm Boot Gold, a 5-year-old gelded son of Storm Boot trained by Gary Contessa, finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Organizer, who rallied to be second by 1 1/4 lengths over Gold and Roses.

Storm Boot Gold covered one mile in 1:35.70 over a sloppy sealed track and returned $37 to win.

* With Jim Pegram returning to Southern California to be the agent for Norberto Arroyo Jr., jockey Kent Desormeaux has hired Mike Sellitto to be his agent. Sellitto had been the agent for Mike Smith, who is currently seeking representation.