05/29/2005 11:00PM

Ghostzapper back - and how

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Horsephotos
Ghostzapper (right), under a hand ride by Javier Castellano, takes the Metropolitan Handicap by 6 1/4 lengths.

ELMONT, N.Y. - And you thought Ghostzapper was brilliant last year.

In a performance that may have been his best yet, Ghostzapper toyed with five graded stakes winners in Monday's Grade 1 , romping to 6 1/4-length victory without breaking a sweat. Silver Wagon, a 35-1 longshot, finished second, five lengths ahead of Sir Shackleton.

Pomeroy, Forest Danger, and Love of Money completed the order of finish.

Making his first start since winning the Breeders' Cup Classic seven months ago, and just seven weeks after having a hole drilled in his head to clear up a sinus infection, Ghostzapper demonstrated why he was voted Horse of the Year last year with a thoroughly dominating performance.

After sitting third for a half-mile, run in 44.48 seconds, Ghostzapper advanced into the lead between the pacesetting Love of Money and the hard-to-handle Forest Danger. By the three-eighths pole, Ghostzapper was a length in front, and he cruised home without feeling jockey Javier Castellano's whip. Ghostzapper covered the one mile in 1:33.29 over a fast track and returned $3.30 as the 3-5 favorite.

Ghostzapper has now won 9 of 11 career starts, including his last six. The first-place purse of $450,000 pushed his career earnings to $3,446,120. He came back to a nice ovation from the Memorial Day crowd of 15,066 at Belmont.

"You dream of winning the Kentucky Derby, but your best dream is to know you have the best horse," said trainer Bobby Frankel, who won his fourth Met Mile. "All the years I've been training and watching Spectacular Bid, Affirmed, and Secretariat and wondering if I'm ever going to get a horse like that. This might be the horse.''

The only anxious moments for Ghostzapper came before the race, when, at the request of the assistant starters, Castellano jumped off Ghostzapper so that he could be loaded into the starting gate. Watching this unfold on a television in the racing office, Frankel didn't flinch.

"He's got a personality," Frankel said. "That didn't bother me."

Ghostzapper, owned by Frank Stronach, broke sharply and settled into third while Love of Money ran an opening quarter in 22.47 seconds under Edgar Prado. Forest Danger broke outward and was getting out under John Velazquez. Castellano was content with his position and only moved at the half-mile pole for fear of Forest Danger coming back over on him.

"He does it so easily," Castellano said. "I didn't do anything with him from the top of the stretch.''

Trainer Ralph Ziadie was ecstatic with Silver Wagon's second-place finish.

"It's like a big win, believe me," Ziadie said. "All the people said I was wasting my time coming up here. I don't think so."

Forest Danger, the Carter winner who many believed could upset Ghostzapper, "ran off with me the whole time and drifted out," Velazquez said.

Ghostzapper, now 5 for 5 at Belmont, will be pointed to the Grade 1, $500,000 Suburban Handicap here on July 2.