Updated on 09/15/2011 1:34PM

How far can King Cugat go?

NYRA/Adam Coglianese
According to jockey Jerry Bailey, King Cugat may have been running on empty near the end of Saturday's 1 3/8-mile Bowling Green.

ELMONT, N.Y. - King Cugat proved he could win beyond nine furlongs, but he still has a way to go to prove himself worthy of being a true candidate for the Breeders' Cup Turf.

At least that's the impression his connections gave Saturday after King Cugat rallied from last to earn a hard-fought, half-length victory over Slew Valley in the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap before 8,629 at Belmont Park. It was six lengths back to Man From Wicklow, who nosed out State Shinto for third. Forbidden Apple, winner of the Manhattan last out, finished fifth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths.

The Bowling Green was viewed as a pivotal race for King Cugat and Forbidden Apple as it would give their connections a clue as to which distances they should point their horses at down the road. Trainer Bill Mott and jockey Jerry Bailey seemed only mildly encouraged about pointing King Cugat to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles. Their other option is the Breeders' Cup Mile.

"He settled where he usually does, made his run and ran like his old self,' Bailey said after guiding King Cugat four wide around the turn and into the stretch. "His finish wasn't as strong as it had been at a mile and an eighth but that's what you get when you stretch them out.'

"We're still not sure that a mile and three-eighths is his best distance, but he was good enough to get it done,' said Mott, who trains the horse for the Centennial Farms. "I don't know that [Bailey] was overly impressed with the race although he thought he ran well. I know the horse pretty well; maybe he's only going to do what he has to. [Bailey] felt he was running on empty a little bit.'

King Cugat's final time for the 1 3/8 miles was 2:10.62, only .42 seconds off the stakes and inner turf course record established by With Approval in the 1990 Bowling Green. It was King Cugat's first win of the year and seventh in 14 starts. The $90,000 first-place purse pushed his career earnings to $1,043,782. He paid $3.60 to win.

Mott said that he would give King Cugat an opportunity at 12 furlongs later in the year but plans on running him next in the Arlington Million at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 18.

Trainer Michael Dickinson was happy with the performance of Slew Valley, who was part of a strong pace yet managed to hold well for second under John Velazquez. Slew Valley, in just his second start in 10 months, dueled with Night Patrol threw splits of 23.51 seconds, 47.52, 1:10.85, and 1:34.87, and still fought on.

"We didn't expect him to be quite so keen,' Dickinson said. "Johnny's going to get him to relax early next time.'

for the Bowling Green Handicap chart.*

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