03/26/2005 12:00AM

Saratoga County pulls Shaheen upset

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Saratoga County takes the Golden Shaheen on Saturday. He had to withstand an inquiry before being named the official winner.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Trainer George Weaver thought his eyes were playing tricks on him during the $2 million Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba on Saturday night.

As he alternatively watched the race unfold over a straightaway six furlongs, Weaver thought he saw his horse, Saratoga County, in front when he watched the race on television, only to have his doubts when he glanced with the naked eye up the stretch.

As the field reached the final furlong, Weaver's hopes were realized: Saratoga County was winning the world's richest sprint.

"I couldn't see down the lane," Weaver said. "I thought he was in front, and I thought he was getting beat. When I saw the last eighth of a mile, I thought he'd win."

Saratoga County won the Golden Shaheen by a length over longshot Tropical Star, with longshot Botanical finishing third in the field of 11. Pico Central, a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the outstanding sprinter of 2004 and the favorite, finished fourth. There were two other American-based starters - Bear Fan, who finished fifth, and My Cousin Matt, who ran eighth.

Pico Central, near the front early, took up midway through the race when in tight quarters while racing next to Saratoga County.

Jockey Alex Solis claimed foul against the winner, but it was disallowed by the stewards. "He lost his momentum and got crowded," Solis said. "He kept spinning his wheels and switching leads."

Saratoga County, ridden by Javier Castellano, ran the about six-furlong distance in 1:11.21. He paid $9.40 to win in the United States.

Owned by Evelyn Pollard of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Saratoga County, 4, has won 6 of 17 starts and $1,646,500. The victory was his fourth in a row, a streak that includes the Mr. Prospector Handicap at Gulfstream Park in January and the General George Stakes at Laurel last month.

The Breeders' Cup Sprint in October is Saratoga County's long-range goal.