09/30/2006 12:00AM

Invasor sick, out of Jockey Gold Cup


ELMONT, N.Y. - The highly anticipated showdown between leading 3-year-old Bernardini and the East Coast's top older horse, Invasor, will not take place as expected in next Saturday's $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Invasor was diagnosed with a 103-degree temperature following training hours Thursday morning, forcing him to miss a scheduled workout on Saturday and therefore will not run. McLaughlin said he will attempt to train Invasor up to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 4. Invasor would have to be supplemented for a fee of $750,000.

"The timing of it is just terrible," McLaughlin said. "We're going to have to pass Saturday and point for the Breeders' Cup. The temperature has come down but he definitely still has a high white count. You can't put them in a drive and push on the gas. Well, you can, but in this situation we're opting not too."

Invasor, a champion in Uruguay, has gone 3 for 3 in this country with wins in the Pimlico Special, Suburban, and Whitney Handicap. If he runs in the Classic, Invasor will go 91 days between races.

"It's a long time off but he's not ever missed a day of training [until now] since he came in last year," McLaughlin said. "He's plenty fit. It's not ideal but the way he runs he'll still fire a huge race in the Breeders' Cup. Maybe it's a blessing in disguise. If we have a knockdown fight with Bernardini this Saturday it may be tough to recover."

Tom Albertrani, the trainer of Bernardini, had mixed reaction to the news of Invasor's defection, noting that it certainly makes the race a lot easier.

"It's too bad," Albertrani said. "It certainly would have been a challenge with him in the race."

With Invasor out, Bernardini's challengers in the Gold Cup figure to include Andromeda's Hero, Awesome Twist, Dylan Thomas, and possibly Spanish Chestnut. Dylan Thomas and Spanish Chestnut share common ownership and would be coupled in the race. Spanish Chestnut, who was used as a rabbit in the 2005 Kentucky Derby for Bandini, could be used as rabbit to try and keep Bernardini from getting loose on the lead.

"I would rather Bernardini sit off of the pace," Albertrani said. "Bernardini is very versatile; he can do anything you want. If there's a lead horse in there or a rabbit in there it's not going to hurt us one bit."