06/13/2008 12:00AM

Emirates to Dubai faces test in Jaipur


ELMONT, N.Y. - The improving Emirates to Dubai faces a stiff challenge Sunday in his graded stakes debut, the Grade 3, $150,000 Jaipur Stakes at Belmont Park. The six-furlong turf sprint drew a field of 10.

The race includes grass sprint specialists like Metro Meteor, Mohegan Sky, Silver Timber, and Salute the Count. It also marks the turf debut for First Defence, whose strong early gear ensures a blazing pace.

All and all, it should be a contentious event, on the course and at the betting windows.

Emirates to Dubai will attract interest following his win in an overnight stakes here last month.

As usual, he was the trailer in the early stages. Garrett Gomez, who has the return call, swung him wide for the stretch drive and the Godolphin Stable runner rallied relentlessly for a half-length victory, earning a career-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure.

"That was a good run, probably his best race," said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "The three-quarters of a mile on the grass makes a big difference for this horse as opposed to the 5 or 5 1/2 furlongs you are forced to run in turf sprints because of the configurations of the tracks."

Emirates to Dubai is unbeaten in two Belmont grass starts at this distance. Now 5, Emirates to Dubai is making only his 10th start. He lost the entire 2006 season to foot problems.

"He was a tender-footed horse," Mettee said. "Since we got to the races last year, he's been running pretty consistently."

First Defence consistently runs fast on the main track. Most recently, he pressed the pace in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap before finishing fifth. His only stakes win was a pacesetting score last summer in the 1 1/16-mile Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Usual pilot Javier Castellano will be aboard First Defence, who is trained by Bobby Frankel.

Salute the Count takes another crack at the Jaipur. He made a game inside move in last year's edition to get second. The 8-year-old gelding will be looking to end a string of three straight seconds, including in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks Day undercard at Churchill Downs.

True to Tradition suffered neck losses in his last two, both stakes: the Dream Big at Atlantic City Race Course and the Turf Sprint on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico.

Linda Rice sends out two runners, Mohegan Sky and Silver Timber, who race uncoupled.