05/18/2004 12:00AM

Injuries deter but can't stop 'Cousin Matt'


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Scott Lake has given his stakes-winning sprinter Shake You Down the summer off, but he could have a capable substitute in My Cousin Matt, who returns to the races for Lake at Belmont Park in Thursday's $56,000 eighth race feature.

, a graded stakes winner, is among six older males entered in the optional claimer at six furlongs. His challengers are Don Six, Multiple Choice, Big E E, Buzzy's Gold, and Bishop Court Hill.

My Cousin Matt hasn't run since his fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 27. The gelding, who is now 5, came out of the Vosburgh with a hairline fracture of the cannon bone. Lake said the injury required healing time, but no surgery.

Last year, My Cousin Matt got off to a strong start by winning the Grade 2 General George at Laurel Park in February. He failed to win in five subsequent starts. Lake said My Cousin Matt's trip to Dubai 14 months ago to run in the Golden Shaheen might have been too taxing. My Cousin Matt also had to battle a popped splint after he finished fifth in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga last August.

Despite the setbacks encountered by My Cousin Matt, Lake is confident the horse will run well in his return race.

"He's been training better than he ever has trained for me," said Lake, who trains My Cousin Matt for Richard Englander.

In the last month, My Cousin Matt has had a couple of eye-catching works at Belmont, including a five-furlong move in 59.78 seconds, the fastest of 39 works at the distance on May 8.

Ramon Dominguez rides My Cousin Matt, who drew post 3.

The speedy , who has never run at Belmont, was in over his head when he finished sixth in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct in April. He came back to win an allowance race at Delaware Park 19 days ago and is a good fit in this field.

Don Six drew post 2 and Shaun Bridgmohan.

Multiple Choice hasn't won a race since December 2002, but the gelding's last two races were decent and a recent bullet work suggests he's ready for a good effort.

Big E E, a winner of two starts at Belmont, has raced only twice since December 2000. He makes his first start since January.

Like Don Six, Bishop Court Hill has early speed.