05/20/2004 11:00PM

Eye of the Tiger works fast for Met


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin wanted a sharp work from Eye of the Tiger and that is what he got on Friday at Belmont Park.

Eye of the Tiger, who will run next in the $750,000 Metropolitan Mile Handicap on May 31, worked five furlongs in 59.64 seconds over the main track, which was listed as fast. Only three of the 27 horses to work at the distance, shaded a minute.

With jockey Richard Migliore in the saddle, Eye of the Tiger got his last quarter in 23 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.40.

"I wanted a decent work because it will be [seven weeks] in between races for him," said McLaughlin, who trains Eye of the Tiger for John D. Gunther.

McLaughlin thinks the 50 days between starts for Eye of the Tiger, who finished third in the Grade 1 Carter on April 10 at Aqueduct, is a big plus. Since Dec. 26, Eye of the Tiger has run six times and the most time he has had between those starts was the 33 days he had between the San Carlos at Santa Anita and the Carter.

Eye of the Tiger will be seeking his first victory since June 2003 in the Grade 1 Met Mile. His last win came in the Grade 3 Affirmed at Hollywood Park for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. McLaughlin began training the 4-year-old after he finished fifth in the San Carlos.

In the Carter, Eye of the Tiger was beaten 3 1/4 lengths by two of the country's top sprinters, Pico Central and Strong Hope. Those horses are also pointing to the Met Mile.

"The mile distance is great for him, but obviously this is going to be a tough race," McLaughlin said. "He's doing well and deserves to run."

In addition to the top three finishers in the Carter, the Met Mile is also expected to draw Azeri, Bowman's Band, Funny Cide, Gygistar, Mobil, and Saarland.

Clement will run two in Sheepshead Bay

Trainer Christophe Clement, who has won three runnings of the Sheepshead Bay, will try for another when he runs Meridiana and Spangled in the Grade 2 turf race next Saturday.

Meridiana, with earnings of $541,795, is the more accomplished of the Clement fillies. This year, Meridiana has won 3 of 4 starts, including the Grade 2 Orchid at Gulfstream Park and the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland.

In her last start, Spangled finished a close-up third in a third-level allowance at Aqueduct on April 29. Despite Spangled's lack of stakes experience, Clement is high on her.

"She ran very well in her last race," Clement said. "The race was too short and she was wide the whole way."

While Spangled will be making her first start beyond nine furlongs in the 1 3/8-mile Sheepshead Bay, Meridiana has proven herself to be a long-distance runner with her wins in the Orchid and Bewitch, both 1 1/2-mile races.

"The Sheepshead Bay will be tougher than the other two," Clement said. "But Meridiana is improving all the time and is a classy filly."

Edgar Prado will ride Meridiana. Clement hasn't named a rider for Spangled yet.

Both of Clement's fillies were scheduled to work over the weekend at Belmont.

True North too soon for My Cousin Matt

My Cousin Matt, who returned to the races a 2 3/4-length winner in an optional claimer on Thursday, will be pointed to a stakes for his next start. It was My Cousin Matt's first start since finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont in September.

Scott Lake, My Cousin Matt's trainer, said the $200,000 True North Breeders' Cup on June 5 on the Belmont Stakes undercard is a possibility, but he probably would prefer to give the 5-year-old more time in between starts.

"I don't think the [True North] would be the right thing to do," Lake said. "He ran big and I don't want to run him back in 16 days off that effort. If it was totally up to me, I would like to run him in the Summit of Speed at Calder."

Lake is referring to a series of sprint stakes at Calder on July 10. The race for My Cousin Matt is the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, which was won last year by the Lake-trained Shake You Down. Last week, Lake revealed that Shake You Down was getting the summer off to recover from a minor ankle injury.

* Jockey Jean-Luc Samyn, who had surgery last month to remove a plate and screws from his right leg, was scheduled to return to riding on Saturday. Samyn broke his leg in a spill at Saratoga last August and was sidelined until January, when he won with his first mount back at Gulfstream.

* On Saturday, jockey Norberto Arroyo began serving a seven-day suspension for careless riding in Wednesday's eighth race.