03/27/2006 1:00AM

Jury's out on Electrocutionist

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Discreet Cat was dominant in the UAE Derby. Will he be Kentucky Derby-ready in May?

NEW YORK - Am I alone in being less than wowed by the way the Dubai World Cup was run? Instead of Godolphin's Electrocutionist suddenly finding a bold burst of late speed to master Brass Hat, it sure looked as if this was more a case of Electrocutionist being a little less punch-drunk in the final stages than Brass Hat and all the rest.

When Electrocutionist was off a step slow from an inside post, it was supposed to be the kiss of death. But since Electrocutionist's strategy was probably not to take the field wire to wire, it is fair to question just how much of a negative impact a slightly tardy break could have had, or how compromising an inside post position in a race at a distance of about 1 1/4 miles with a long initial straightaway run could have been.

It was also clear that Electrocutionist was being asked to pick it up by jockey Frankie Dettori about five furlongs from home. But being asked to pick it up is something far short of the hard drives that Brass Hat and Wilko were put into turning into a stretch at Nad Al Sheba that is a full furlong longer than what North American-based horses and jockeys are accustomed to. In other words, Brass Hat in particular might have been set down an eighth of a mile too soon, and that might have had a lot to do with making Electrocutionist appear strong when he got the best of Brass Hat very late to score by 1 1/2 lengths.

That said, here's hoping that Electrocutionist is targeted for a start or two on dirt in the United States before the Breeders' Cup. Even though he was an accomplished performer on the turf in Europe, Electrocutionist seems to be a notch better on dirt. And being based in Dubai and accustomed to performing without the race-day medication that is prohibited there, Electrocutionist has a much better chance to replicate his World Cup form in this country than U.S. horses such as Brass Hat and Wilko, who finished third Saturday. Brass Hat and Wilko, among other U.S. horses, had to travel to Dubai and perform without the medication they are used to and then face a long trip home.

If we do get Electrocutionist over here, it will be interesting to see how good his form might really be.

Conversely, Godolphin's 3-year-old colt Discreet Cat left absolutely no room for doubt in a six-length romp in the UAE Derby that was nothing short of brilliant. Discreet Cat, who had won his only two prior starts, embarrassed a field that included seven rivals who were 4-year-olds by Northern Hemisphere measure. And one of those older opponents was the highly regarded Simpatico Bribon, who was so impressive winning his Dubai debut in early March that he was seriously considered for a start in the World Cup. But Simpatico Bribon was not in the same league as Discreet Cat and finished nearly 11 lengths behind him on Saturday. It is obvious that, if properly handled, Discreet Cat has a chance to become an important racehorse.

"If properly handled" is the key qualifier. If Godolphin decides to go for the Kentucky Derby with Discreet Cat, and if it sticks to its guns and tries again to prove that the UAE Derby is a viable springboard to Kentucky, that might not qualify as proper handling.

Godolphin is 0 for 5 with starters in the Kentucky Derby. Of the five starters, only two did any sort of running - Worldly Manner in 1999 and Express Tour in 2001. They lodged serious bids, but both were gasping for air in the 10th furlong. Worldly Manner and Express Tour performed like short horses, and that is the reason why so many people in this country believe that the UAE Derby route to Louisville does not provide the foundation necessary to win a race as difficult and demanding as the Kentucky Derby.

Godolphin is an operation smart and flexible enough - not to mention rich enough - to have successfully bucked many of racing's traditions. Just look at how fast the brains behind Godolphin turned Dubai into a winter racing destination for the world. If only Godolphin would break from its pattern and consider a conventional Derby prep between the UAE Derby and Kentucky. The Blue Grass at Keeneland has been mentioned as an option for Discreet Cat, and that race could provide the final layer of foundation needed to succeed in the Kentucky Derby. But the betting is that Godolphin is set on showing the world that the UAE Derby can indeed give birth to a Kentucky Derby winner. Employing a conventional American prep between these two races won't help Godolphin back up that statement, so it appears willing to take a few more defeats in the Kentucky Derby in an attempt to prove the point.

All of which doesn't exactly help Discreet Cat.