09/26/2003 11:00PM

Stumble can't stop Sulamani

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Sulamani will be a strong contender in the Breeders' Cup Turf following his 2 3/4-length win in the Turf Classic Invitational.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Sulamani more than lived up to the hype that surrounded him in the $750,000 at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Under jockey Jerry Bailey, Sulamani drew off to a 2 3/4-length win in the 1 1/2-mile Turf Classic after stumbling at the top of the stretch. Deeliteful Irving finished second, three-quarters of a length in front of his entrymate, Balto Star. Sabiango, Polish Summer, Slew Valley, and Lunar Sovereign completed the order of finish.

As anticipated, Balto Star jumped out to the lead in the Grade 1 Turf Classic and set comfortable fractions of 25.46 seconds, 50.29, 1:14.69, and 1:38.16. Sulamani, the 3-5 favorite, raced in last position for the opening mile. As Sulamani began to move closer at the top of the stretch, he bobbled. Bailey said his horse caught the heel of Sabiango, who was ridden by David Flores.

"It was race riding," said Bailey, who won his first Turf Classic. "That was a very athletic and courageous performance. I've never had a horse, especially one like this that is so lanky, get back into a race after something like that happened."

Down the stretch, Sulamani met no resistance from his rivals and motored by the field to gain the lead in the final furlong. Had Bailey asked for more, the margin of victory undoubtedly would have been larger.

Sulamani ($3.50) completed the distance in 2:27.51 over a firm course.

Owned by Godolphin Stable and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, Sulamani will now head to the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. There he is expected to meet his rival from the Grade 1 Arlington Million, Storming Home.

In his American debut, Sulamani finished second but was placed first in the Arlington Million when Storming Home was disqualified for ducking out near the finish.

Bailey said Sulamani ducked out at something he might have seen near the wire in the Turf Classic.

"Maybe he thought it was Storming Home," Bailey said with a laugh.

Simon Crisford, the racing manager for Godolphin, said, "He ran fabulous and we are very excited with the win. He showed great acceleration toward the end of the race, something that he has always shown."

With his win in the Turf Classic, Sulamani, a 4-year-old son of Hernando, has a record of 7-2-0 in 11 starts and earnings of $3,577,245.