10/07/2003 11:00PM

Ruler's Court, with Norfolk romp, may have home-field edge


Last weekend was supposed to produce a number of challengers for Cuvee in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. But with Champagne winner Birdstone not running and Lane's End Futurity winner Eurosilver doubtful, only one serious challenger may have emerged.

In some handicapper's eyes, Ruler's Court may have wrested the favorite's role away from Cuvee in the Juvenile with his authoritative 14-length victory in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita. His Norfolk Stakes record of 1:41.27 is also faster than any of the BC Juveniles run at 1 1/16 miles. In two of the previous three Breeders' Cups run at Santa Anita, the Norfolk winner came back to win the Juvenile.

"I think home-court advantage is a big plus," said Eoin Harty, trainer of Ruler's Court. "He's got a race at the distance, and a race over the track. Cuvee, there's a question at the distance, especially going around two turns."

Cuvee has won 4 of 5 starts and was a dominant winner of the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 14, but he has never raced around two turns. Cuvee will train at Churchill until the week of the Breeders' Cup. He breezed six furlongs in 1:15.60 on Monday.

Harty, who trains Ruler's Court for the Darley Stud Management of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, said Ruler's Court "came out of the race in great shape. He's eaten up every night since he ran, which is a good sign."

Three weeks ago, the signs were not so good for Ruler's Court. After a third-place finish in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship and a fourth in the Best Pal, Ruler's Court was sent to Turfway Park for the Kentucky Cup Juvenile. But he was suffering from colic after arriving in Kentucky in midweek and was scratched.

"He was all right the next morning, and I was still on the fence whether I was going to run," Harty said. "I picked up the Racing Form, and I looked at this thing and didn't see any killers. I trained him, and the kid who was on him said he was moving good, but he wasn't himself. I said that's not good enough to take a chance."

Capitano, who finished second to Ruler's Court in the Norfolk, is expected to run back in the Juvenile, trainer Ray Bell said. "They said you should never avoid running in any race because of one horse," Bell said. "I don't really fear any of the others."

Others out of the Norfolk still under consideration for the Juvenile include fourth-place finisher Siphonizer, who flipped his palate in the race, and fifth-place finisher Consecrate. Trainer Doug O'Neill said Norfolk third-place finisher Perfect Moon would not be supplemented to the Juvenile.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who missed the Juvenile for the first time last year, will start Race for Glory, a seven-length winner of the Oct. 1 Cavonnier Stakes, restricted to California breds.

Trainer Aidan O'Brien, who won the 2001 Juvenile with Johannesburg, is considering sending Grand Reward, a son of Storm Cat out of Serena's Song, and Old Deuteronomy from Ireland.