07/08/2008 12:00AM

El Sultry Sun's last is key to puzzle


Was El Sultry Sun's last race an aberration that can be dismissed because it came over a rain-soaked soft turf course?

That's the question handicappers must answer when evaluating how to handle El Sultry Sun's chances in Thursday's $75,000 French Colonial Stakes at Belmont Park.

The French Colonial, the feature on a strong nine-race card that includes four optional claiming races, will be contested at 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf course and drew a field of 11 3-year-olds, including main-track-only entrant Acai.

El Sultry Sun, a Live Oak Stud homebred who is a half-brother to millionaires Solar Splendor and Sultry Song, has already won two stakes and was beaten less than two lengths by the highly regarded Sporting Art in the Grade 3 Calder Derby.

After winning his career debut at Belmont almost a year ago, El Sultry Sun improved his Beyer Speed Figures in four subsequent starts, capped by a nose win over Prussian in the Lamplighter Stakes at Monmouth Park.

But after making a mid-race move in which he passed four horses and gained 5 1/2 lengths in the Grade 3 Colonial Turf Cup, El Sultry Sun flattened out and finished seventh, his first off-the-board finish in six lifetime starts. Perhaps he disliked the soft turf and will revert to his good form over a firmer surface.

Trainer John Kimmel brings back El Sultry Sun just 19 days later in a much softer spot. Kimmel, however, is just 4 for his last 32 with male turf runners returning in less than 21 days.

For those looking to try and beat El Sultry Sun at a short price, Run Sully Run and Dynhocracy are viable alternatives.

Run Sully Run has been beaten a total of 1 3/4 lengths by El Sultry Sun in his last two races, including what the trouble line on his past performances described as a "rough trip" in the Calder Derby. He has been freshened since finishing third to El Sultry Sun in the May 25 Lamplighter and shows two recent fast workouts, including a best-of-69 four-furlong breeze in 47.40 seconds on June 28 at Monmouth.

Dynhocracy, winner of the restricted Appleton Juvenile Turf last fall at Calder, will be making the second start of his form cycle after an even fifth in the Grade 3 Hill Prince. His effort in that race may have been better than it appears on paper, since he ran his last quarter-mile of the one-mile Hill Prince in 23.80 seconds, a good final fraction.