09/19/2008 12:00AM

Repeating a proven pattern


ELMONT, N.Y. - Hoping to follow the same path he took to an Eclipse Award as champion steeplechase horse last year, Good Night Shirt returns from a four-month layoff to head an eight-horse field in Sunday's Grade 1, $150,000 Lonesome Glory Steeplechase at Belmont Park.

The Lonesome Glory, run at 2 1/2 miles and over 10 National Fences, is one of four stakes on a 10-race card at Belmont. The Lonesome Glory will go as the opener at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Last year, Good Night Shirt finished second in the Royal Chase Handicap at Keeneland in April and won the Iroquois at Percy Warner in Nashville in May. Trainer Jack Fisher elected to not race Good Night Shirt during the summer and brought him back in the inaugural Lonesome Glory at Belmont, a race he won by one length carrying 154 pounds. Good Night Shirt finished fourth in the Grand National at Far Hills, N.J., before winning the Grade 1 Colonial Cup in Camden, S.C.

This year, Good Night Shirt won the Georgia Cup in April and then the Grade 1 Iroquois before getting the summer off. Fisher is once again targeting the Grand National on Oct. 18 and Colonial Cup on Nov. 16 with the Lonesome Glory a stepping-stone.

"We're giving away a lot of weight," said Fisher, whose horse at 158 pounds is conceding four to 20 pounds to the field. "The race at Far Hills, the race at Camden are weight-for-age. I think I need to run him. Last year, I thought he was a little bit short and he got it done. I think he's a little bit short this year. If he can get it done, he'll get it done. If not, he'll get a good work.''

Fisher also sends out Duke of Earl, a horse who looks to be a cut below this company.

Good Night Shirt's major competition figures to come from Dark Equation, who won the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. Doug Fout, the trainer of Dark Equation, said he believes this is the best time to tackle Good Night Shirt.

"We're going to push Good Night Shirt; we're not going to give it to him early," Fout told the Steeplechase Times. "Nothing's going to be easy out there and he's going to have to earn it."

In addition to Dark Equation, Fisher said he fears Best Attack, whom Good Night Shirt defeated by 4 1/2 lengths in the Iroquois at equal weights. Sunday, Best Attack gets 12 pounds from Good Night Shirt.

Red Letter Day, Dalucci, and the coupled entry of Sermon of Love and Mon Villez complete the field.